Nature spells sweet success for beverages
Currently, one of the biggest considerations for food and beverage manufacturers is the global obesity epidemic. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) recommend consumers eat less than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugars. However, added sugars account on average for more than 13 percent of calories per day in the U.S. population, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
This slide show has been adapted from the “Nature spells sweet success for beverages” article in Food Insider Journal’s October digital magazine.
Sugar is a global guilty pleasure
Of the five basic tastes—sourness, saltiness, bitterness, umami and sweetness—the last is the only one regarded as pleasurable across most, if not all, countries.
Sugar is now in the hot seat in developed countries where it’s one of the main drivers of obesity and cited as a cause for numerous health concerns.
Packaged Facts reported beverages, including soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, and flavored waters, account for almost half (47 percent) of all added sugars consumed by the U.S. population.
Increasingly aware consumers
Packaged Facts reported nearly 70 percent of consumers are actively scaling back on sugar consumption.
Packed Facts reported that 66 percent of consumers considered sugar content when making a purchase.
Almost three quarters of U.S. consumers are concerned about the amount of sugar they consume.
Companies not feeling so sweet
According to data from SPINS, sales of shelf-stable soda and carbonated beverages remained flat during the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, 2018.
Juice sales posted a 1.3 percent decline.
Mintel reported 41 percent of U.S. consumers who don’t purchase 100 percent fruit juice stated they don’t buy it because it’s high in sugar.
Don't vilify sugar just yet
Consumers are willing to see as much as 30 g of sugar per 8-ounce serving in their lemonade, Melanie Kahn, founder and CEO of Poppilu Inc. said.
Higher sugar content is also more acceptable for ready-to-drink (RTD) sweetened coffee, which can contain as much as 20 g of sugar without turning off consumers, said Rusti Porter, senior vice president of marketing at REBBL.
“I think the real question for beverage manufacturers is to understand the tipping point: Exactly how much sugar is too much?” — Melanie Kahn, founder and CEO of Poppilu Inc.
Quality over quantity
Packaged Facts reported about two-thirds of consumers are concerned about the type of sugar they’re consuming.
In low amounts, options like cane sugar, coconut sugar (popular for its low glycemic index [GI] compared to cane sugar) and organic raw agave are resonating with beverage consumers.
“Generally speaking, minimally processed sweeteners from real foods are accepted.” — Rusti Porter, senior vice president of marketing at REBBL.
Offering consumers variety
One way brands can circumvent sugar stigma is to offer a variety of beverages that appeal to a range of sugar content preferences.
SPINS reported sales of functional beverages overall grew 4.9 percent over the past year. However, notable growth was posted by those in the natural products market that included stevia as the sweetener (up 23.6 percent) and those in the conventional market that included a blend of stevia with another alternative sweetener (up 20.5 percent).
“If you take the sugar out of somebody’s drink but don’t replace the sweetness or satisfy their craving, you’ll have a tough time creating new habits.” — Jim DeCicco, CEO of Kitu Super Coffee
'Added sugars' its own category
“Many beverages load up on apple and other fruit juices for sweetness, but they don’t call out added sugars because they’re inherent to juice,” remarked Melanie Kahn, founder and CEO of Poppilu Inc. “It’s hard to rationalize why the natural sugars in honey and the natural sugars in fruit juices are treated differently on Nutrition Facts.”
In 2016, FDA announced the revamped Nutrition Facts label would include a new line just for “added sugars,” both in terms of grams and as a percent Daily Value (%DV).
Manufacturers will have to be more conscious about the how they’re sweetening products and potentially explore natural sweeteners.