New global consumer research from Kerry, a leader in taste and nutrition, revealed that consumers are concerned about the long-term negative effects of high sugar intake.
Overall health and a focus on improving immunity, gut health and mental wellness are primary reasons why consumers are taking steps to cut back on how much sugar they consume.
In Southeast Asia, as many as 86 percent of respondents are concerned about over consumption of sugar leading to diabetes, more than 70 percent want to cut their sugar intake to enjoy quality of life, while 62 percent are doing so to avoid potential health issues. A total of 82 percent of global consumers agree that reduced sugar products are healthier.
The findings were revealed in Kerry’s worldwide “Sensibly Sweet” survey, conducted among more than 12,000 consumers across 24 countries, including Europe, North America, Australia, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Africa.
‘Reduced Sugar Seekers’ Account for the Largest Consumer Profile Segment
Kerry’s study in Southeast Asia revealed three consumer profiles around sugar and sweetness perception: the Reduced Sugar Seeker, Zero Sugar Advocates and the Taste Chaser. At 47 percent, the Reduced Sugar Seeker makes up the largest consumer segment, citing a healthier lifestyle as their key motivation in cutting back on sugar.
The Taste Chaser, the second largest consumer segment in Southeast Asia, revealed the most interesting finding. They prefer not to consume reduced or zero sugar products to avoid the negative health effects of artificial sweeteners, as well as the poor taste and sensorial experience that often come with it. Their preference is to eat in moderation; however, they are open to reduced or low sugar products, particularly in indulgent categories like ice cream or coffee beverages, if they taste good.
Sugar has long been at the center of the taste-versus-nutrition debate. However, post-pandemic perceptions are reforming the way people think about sweetened food and drinks, ultimately changing their relationship with sugar.
A large majority of respondents in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, prefer natural sweeteners. Those who do not like artificial sweeteners say they are bad for health and have harmful side effects. Most expressed a desire for plant-derived sweeteners in the future.
Besides honey and sugar, there is high preference for stevia, followed by jaggery, palm sugar and fructose.
Managing Sweetness Sensibly in New Food and Beverage Formulations
Commenting on the findings, Young Kim, vice president of taste for Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, said, “Our research found that a balanced taste between sweet, salty and spicy is important for Southeast Asian consumers. Amidst growing consumer health consciousness and governments regulating the reduction of sugar content in foods and beverages, the ability to reduce sugar content in a product while still delivering the sweetness impact and full body mouthfeel that sugar offers, is key to managing sweetness sensibly in new food and beverage formulations.”
Soumya Nair, global consumer research and insights director at Kerry added: “Our latest Kerry research confirms a precarious new balance around sweetness. Although consumers have positive emotions about it, one thing remained universal in the survey: the need for healthier alternatives and sugar-reduction solutions. Health and taste are crucial factors when consumers consider low and reduced sugar alternatives. Currently, taste is a barrier but this gap creates a clear opportunity for brands to meet consumer demand for more healthier options that offer the same flavor experience they enjoy.”
To conduct the research at the end of 2022, Kerry’s Insight team did a deep dive into human behavior and attitudes around sweetness and sweeteners via a quantitative survey reaching 12,784 people across 24 countries (the United States, Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Australia, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria).
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