GLOBAL –  Gen Z and younger Millennials are  ‘breaking the norm’ when it comes to sweetener preferences among different generations, a new study by taste and nutrition company Kerry has revealed.

According to the study, younger consumers are placing greater importance on sugar in food and drinks, with 36% of these consumers skeptical of ingredients used to replace sugar in food and drinks.

The survey also revealed that natural sweeteners rank highest across the globe, with 75% of global consumers saying they prefer a natural sweetener (such as honey, sugar, or stevia).

On preferences, most consumers globally preferred honey, sucrose/sugar, stevia, coconut sugar, and fructose more than any other sweetener.

Bad for one’s health (55%) and harmful side effects (41%) were the top reasons given by consumers that did not prefer artificial sweeteners.

Kerry’s consumer research and insights experts conducted the quantitative survey that saw the input of  12,784 people across 24 countries and six continents.

“We wanted to step back and see how – post-pandemic and [amid] geopolitical issues – behaviors, lifestyles and priorities had changed,” Soumya Nair, Global Director of Consumer Research and Insights at Kerry explained.

Proactive health over weight loss

Speaking of priorities, the results revealed that consumer relationships with sweetness are changing with many consumers identifying ‘sustainable health’ is the primary motivator for sugar reduction.

These days, people are questioning ingredients, are more cautious about accepting alternatives, and are deliberating on the impact of sweeteners on their health.

The ingredients supplier is also aware of consumers being ‘savvier than ever’ to the type, source, and amount of sweeteners in their food and drinks.

According to the survey, 79% of consumers increasingly acknowledge and turn to reduced sugar products as healthier alternatives.

Among almost all age groups, the top health concern and perceived drawback of sugar consumption was not that it ‘leads to weight gain’, but that it ‘causes diabetes’.

“An overwhelming majority were thinking about sustainable health… and long-term healthy ageing,” Nair revealed.

A sugar reduction spectrum

The second significant finding from the research was that consumers don’t have a blanket rule or an unwavering perception of sugar reduction across all product categories and meal occasions.

“People don’t think about sugar reduction with the same intensity throughout the day and throughout separate occasions,” explained the consumer research and insights lead.

The same person may want to cut out sugar entirely in the morning, consume products with no sugar reduction at midday, and by the evening want to eat sugar reduced food and drink.

“We realise there is a spectrum that exists and indulgence is at the heart of that spectrum. The level of indulgence to a certain occasion and to a certain product… influences consumer decisions [around] sugar reduction.

“That does not mean that the sugar reduction priority disappears,  but there are varying degrees and intensities when it comes to a certain occasion and a certain product category,” Nair explained.

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