Industry News | March 12, 2013

Consumers Care Most About Total Sugar Content, Not HFCS

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According to a new study from Mintel Research Consultancy exploring consumer attitudes about the 12 highest-volume food and beverage categories, the percentage concerned about total sugars in their diet ranges between 21 and 60 percent.

In contrast, no more than 3 percent of consumers expressed concern about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) when considering baked goods, beverages, dairy products, and condiments.

Individual category data mirrored data for overall food and beverage decisions, which saw nearly a quarter (21 percent) of respondents expressing concern about consuming fewer total sugars, compared to the 3 percent citing HFCS as a specific concern.

The research regarding overall decisions, which was also conducted by Mintel, shows low consumer interest and no special preference for the type of sweetener used in food and beverage products.

“This year’s study reports category-specific data and further helps dispel a myth regarding consumer concern about HFCS,” says Sara Martens, vice president of market research company The MSR Group. “Rather than concern about which nutritive sweetener is added to a product, the study shows consumers care more about avoiding total sugars when making food and beverage decisions.

“This data suggests that manufacturers would realize a stronger sales increase by reducing overall sugar content than reformulating without HFCS,” she adds.

In addition to assessing consumer attitudes, the study also explored their behaviors, such as reading labels when purchasing food and beverage products.

In this measure, too, more consumers are reading labels for total sugar (31 percent) than HFCS (4 percent), with calories jumping ahead as the information most looked for when reading food and beverage product labels, according to 41 percent of respondents.

“The new data from Mintel accurately demonstrates consumer attitudes, because the category study uses a combination of aided and unaided questions,” Martens says. “Studies using unaided questions are more authentic indicators because they document the concerns that are top of mind with consumers.”

The 2012 study asked more than 2,000 consumers a series of aided and unaided questions.