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UK Attitudes toward Sugar and Sweetners Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Attitudes toward Sugar and Sweetners market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Key points included

  • Careful communication is needed to combat concerns sparked by sugar reduction
  • Strong interest in learning about differences between types of sugar and sweeteners
  • Simplicity is in high demand in communicating sugar content

Covered in this report

This report looks at consumers’ attitudes towards and behaviours relating to sugar and sweeteners in all types of food and nonalcoholic drink that consumers eat and buy.

Sweeteners are defined by the EU as ‘substances used to impart a sweet taste to foods or in table-top sweeteners’, and can broadly be split into two types: artificial sweeteners and naturally derived sweeteners.

The term artificial sweetener is typically used to refer to sugar substitutes that are made from chemically manufactured molecules, ie those which do not exist in nature. Examples include acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose.

The term naturally derived sweeteners is typically taken to include any sweeteners which are derived from natural sources. Examples of zero-calorie naturally derived sweeteners include stevia (made from leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant) and xylitol (eg from birch).

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Anita Winther, a leading analyst in the Food & Drink sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The continued government and media spotlight has put sugar firmly on consumers’ radars as an ingredient to scrutinise. This is also fuelling widespread efforts to limit or reduce sugar in their diet. This underscores that sugar reduction remains an imperative for food and drink operators, not just to meet government measures, but because of consumer demand Anita Winther
Food & Drink Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Products covered in this Report
      • Executive Summary

          • The market
            • Sugar remains key foe in fight against obesity
              • 2019 Change4Life campaign focuses on sugary food swaps
                • Scientific study raises doubts over artificial sweeteners’ benefits
                  • Government consults on HFSS promotions and advertising
                    • Companies and brands
                      • Flavoured water and energy drinks see biggest uptick in sugar claims
                        • Figure 1: Share of product launches in the UK retail non-alcoholic drinks market making an L/N/R sugar claim, 2015-19
                      • L/N/R sugar claims gain share in food launches
                        • Figure 2: Share of product launches in the UK retail food market making an L/N/R sugar claim, 2015-19
                      • Breakfast cereals ramp up sugar reduction
                        • Yogurts use differing approaches to cut sugar
                          • Sweet treat categories add L/N/R sugar options
                            • A variety of approaches to sugar reduction in chocolate
                              • The consumer
                                • Most people are concerned about sugar, artificial sweeteners are a concern for half
                                  • Figure 3: Concerns about selected ingredients in food and non-alcoholic drinks, June 2019
                                • Consumers’ perceptions of their sugar intake diverge from official data
                                  • Figure 4: Consumers’ perceptions of their own sugar intake, June 2019
                                • Three in five are limiting/reducing sugar, scratch cooking is top step
                                  • Figure 5: Steps taken to limit/reduce the amount of sugar in the diet, June 2019
                                • Traffic light labelling is consumers’ top choice to understand sugar
                                  • Figure 6: Information consumers would find helpful to understand the sugar content of food and drink, June 2019
                                • Transparency and caution needed for sugar reformulation
                                  • Figure 7: Behaviours relating to sugar and sweeteners, June 2019
                                • Naturally occurring sugars are widely accepted, but regulation limits use
                                  • Figure 8: Attitudes towards sugar and sweeteners, June 2019
                                • Not all sugars are seen to be equal, sweeteners struggle on consumer perceptions
                                  • Figure 9: Correspondence analysis of perceptions of selected types of sugars and sweeteners, June 2019
                                • What we think
                                • Issues and Insights

                                  • Careful communication is needed to combat concerns sparked by sugar reduction
                                    • The facts
                                      • The implications
                                        • Strong interest in learning about differences between types of sugar and sweeteners
                                          • The facts
                                            • The implications
                                              • Simplicity is in high demand in communicating sugar content
                                                • The facts
                                                  • The implications
                                                  • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                    • Sugar remains key foe in fight against obesity
                                                      • 2019 Change4Life campaign focuses on sugary food swaps
                                                        • Scientific study raises doubts over artificial sweeteners’ benefits
                                                          • Government consults on HFSS promotions and advertising
                                                          • Market Drivers

                                                            • Sugar remains in the spotlight in fight against obesity
                                                              • ‘Sugar tax’ on soft drinks comes into force
                                                                • PHE tasks food industry with sugar reduction
                                                                  • Calls for sugar tax on food
                                                                    • Figure 10: Progress by manufacturers and retailers combined across eight categories covered by PHE’s sugar reformulation programme, as a percentage change comparison between the baseline and year 1, 2015 and 2017
                                                                  • 2019 Change4Life urges parents to swap to less sugary foods
                                                                    • People are cutting back on sugar, but sweet tooth remains strong
                                                                      • Scepticism towards artificial sweeteners persists
                                                                        • Scientific study raises doubts over artificial sweeteners’ benefits
                                                                          • University study finds artificial sweeteners to be ‘toxic’ to gut microbes
                                                                            • Government consultations on HFSS promotions and advertising
                                                                              • Restrictions on promotions and in-store placement are suggested
                                                                                • Further HFSS advertising restrictions on the cards
                                                                                  • Lower prices see EU sugar production reduced
                                                                                  • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                                                    • Flavoured water and energy drinks see biggest uptick in sugar claims
                                                                                      • Breakfast cereals ramp up sugar reduction
                                                                                        • Yogurts use differing approaches to cut sugar
                                                                                          • Sweet treat categories add L/N/R sugar options
                                                                                            • A variety of approaches to sugar reduction in chocolate
                                                                                            • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                              • Regulation limits use of L/N/R sugar claims
                                                                                                  • Figure 11: Share of product launches in the UK retail food market making an L/N/R sugar claim, 2015-19
                                                                                                  • Figure 12: Share of product launches in the UK retail non-alcoholic drinks market making an L/N/R sugar claim, 2015-19
                                                                                                • Flavoured water and energy drinks see biggest uptick in sugar claims
                                                                                                  • Flavoured water has largest share of L/N/R sugar launches
                                                                                                    • Figure 13: Share of product launches in each sub-category making an L/N/R sugar claim^, UK retail non-alcoholic drinks market, by sub-category, 2015-19
                                                                                                  • Energy drinks brands’ SDIL strategies diverge
                                                                                                    • Sugar-free CSDs see revamps and fruity editions
                                                                                                      • Sugar reduction ramps up in breakfast cereals
                                                                                                        • Breakfast cereals look to inulin and chicory root fibre
                                                                                                          • Figure 14: Share of product launches in each category making an L/N/R sugar claim^ in the UK retail food market making an L/N/R sugar claim, by category, 2015-19
                                                                                                        • Yogurts use differing approaches to cut sugar…
                                                                                                          • …sweeteners…
                                                                                                            • …fruit content…
                                                                                                              • …and plain flavours
                                                                                                                • Müller develops new culture to cut sugar content
                                                                                                                  • Sweet treat categories add L/N/R sugar options
                                                                                                                    • Leading brands launch L/N/R sugar variants in sweet biscuits and cakes
                                                                                                                      • 2018 sees wave of lower-sugar ice cream launches
                                                                                                                        • Sugar and gum confectionery sees slight uptick in claims
                                                                                                                          • Chocolate brands use fibre, protein and food tech to reduce sugar
                                                                                                                            • Nestlé develops porous sugar particles
                                                                                                                              • Various brands look to protein
                                                                                                                                • Cadbury adds fibre to Dairy Milk
                                                                                                                                  • Napolina, Loyd Grossman and Heinz add no-added-sugar sauces
                                                                                                                                  • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                                    • Most people are concerned about sugar
                                                                                                                                      • Artificial sweeteners are a concern for half of the nation
                                                                                                                                        • Consumers’ perceptions of their sugar intake diverge from official data
                                                                                                                                          • Three in five are limiting/reducing sugar, scratch cooking is top step
                                                                                                                                            • Moderation is more common than choosing L/N/R sugar options
                                                                                                                                              • Traffic light labelling is consumers’ top choice to understand sugar
                                                                                                                                                • 36% would find sugar shown in teaspoons/cubes helpful
                                                                                                                                                  • Transparency and caution needed for sugar reformulation
                                                                                                                                                    • Naturally occurring sugars are accepted, but regulation limits use
                                                                                                                                                      • Not all sugars are seen to be equal
                                                                                                                                                        • Sweeteners struggle
                                                                                                                                                        • Concerns about Ingredients in Food and Non-alcoholic Drinks

                                                                                                                                                          • Two in three are concerned about sugar
                                                                                                                                                            • Women, higher earners and parents are most concerned
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 15: Concerns about selected ingredients in food and non-alcoholic drinks, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                            • Artificial sweeteners are a concern for half of Brits…
                                                                                                                                                              • …but half also deem them safe
                                                                                                                                                                • Naturally sourced sweeteners do not avoid scepticism
                                                                                                                                                                • Consumers’ Perceptions of Their Own Sugar Intake

                                                                                                                                                                  • Just 28% think they eat too much sugar…
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 16: Consumers’ perceptions of their own sugar intake, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                                    • …but perceptions diverge from reality
                                                                                                                                                                      • Apps can simplify sugar tracking
                                                                                                                                                                      • Steps Taken to Limit Sugar in the Diet

                                                                                                                                                                        • Three in five are limiting/reducing sugar
                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 17: Whether consumers are taking steps to limit/reduce the amount of sugar in their diet, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                                        • Scratch cooking is top step taken to limit/reduce sugar
                                                                                                                                                                          • Good news for cooking ingredients but a challenge for processed products
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 18: Steps taken to limit/reduce the amount of sugar in the diet, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                                          • Moderation is commonplace
                                                                                                                                                                            • 47% choose reduced/no-sugar options
                                                                                                                                                                            • Sugar Labelling Preferences

                                                                                                                                                                              • Traffic light labelling is top choice in helping people understand sugar
                                                                                                                                                                                • Familiarity and intuitive nature help traffic light labelling
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 19: Information consumers would find helpful to understand the sugar content of food and drink, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                • Voluntary adoption could stave off firmer actions
                                                                                                                                                                                  • 36% would find sugar shown in teaspoons/cubes helpful
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Three in 10 are interested in certifications
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Sugarwise offers a rare example of a sugar certification
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Behaviours Related to Sugar and Sweeteners

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Scope to alleviate concerns through education
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 20: Behaviours relating to sugar and sweeteners, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Putting the spotlight on the positive
                                                                                                                                                                                          • On-pack messages come with pros and cons
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 21: Jordans explaining on-pack the role of sugar in its granola, 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Consumer concerns necessitate transparency around sugar reformulation
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 22: Graze educating consumers on-pack about chicory root, 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Recipe changes risk backlash from consumers
                                                                                                                                                                                            • REWE invites shoppers to choose recipes
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 23: REWE Deine Wahl Chocolate Puddings and Triple Chocolate Crispy Muesli, Germany 2018 and 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Attitudes towards Sugar and Sweeteners

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Calories cannot be ignored in sugar reduction
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 24: Attitudes towards sugar and sweeteners, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Naturally occurring sugars are accepted, but regulation limits use
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Perceptions of Types of Sugars and Sweeteners

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Honey has the strongest positive image
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Cost poses a barrier to use of honey
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 25: Correspondence analysis of perceptions of selected types of sugars and sweeteners, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Not all sugars are equal
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Dates, palm/coconut sugar and agave syrup have weak but positive images
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Sweeteners struggle
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 26: Perceptions of selected types of sugars and sweeteners, June 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Appendix – Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 27: Average sugar contents in UK food launches in categories targeted by PHE’s reformulation programme, by category, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 28: Average sugar contents in UK non-alcoholic drinks launches, by category, 2015-19