Over the last twelve months, consumers have been less attentive to their nutritional intake as they have turn to food and drink for moments of escapism to deal with the uncertainties of everyday life, says FMCG Gurus. Whilst the impact of COVID-19 continues to linger, consumers are re-evaluating their dietary habits, driven by increased concerns of weight gain brought about by comfort eating and drinking. This is something that will reignite the war on sugar. However, skepticism needs to be applied when assessing whether consumers are actually cutting down on their sugar intake when they say so.
Eating and drinking habits have been significantly impacted over the last twelve months, with consumers turning to products for moments of escapism to deal with the pressures of everyday life, a habit that will continue for the foreseeable future. FMCG Gurus research conducted in 2021 for instance, shows that 43% of consumers say that they continue to purchase comfort food such as ice cream and confectionery to deal with the stresses of COVID-19. This relates to 48% of consumers saying that they have become more conscious about their mental health because of worries such as the health and wellbeing of loved ones and the state of the economy. Whilst such moments of comfort eating help alleviate stress in the short-term, it is something that has conflicted with wider health goals. It is also a reason why 37% of the globe say that they are now more conscious about their weight. Consumers will be concerned about weight gain in the long-term because of the link with health problems such as cancer, while in the short-term they deem obese people more vulnerable to complications arising from the virus.
As a result of this, consumers are re-evaluating their dietary habits and are looking to make healthy eating a life goal. FMCG Gurus research shows that 76% of consumers say that they are not attempting to eat and drinking more healthily as a result of COVID-19. When trying to improve their diets, consumers are adopting a back-to-basics approach to nutrition. This involves increasing their intake of fruit and vegetables (69%) and reducing their intake of dietary evils, namely sugar (59%). Consumers are well aware of the link between sugar and obesity, as well as diabetes and as such, the war on sugar will intensify over the next twelve months. This is something that will drive demand for products – especially in product categories inherently associated with indulgence – with low sugar claims, so that consumers can seek out products deemed guilt-free for moments of escapism.
However, whether consumers will actually reduce their sugar intake is a different matter. For instance, despite much attention over the last decade towards consumers taking a more proactive approach to health, 24% said that their health had deteriorated over the last two years in 2020. In comparison, 22% said that their health had improved. This shows that despite their best efforts to improve their health, many consumers feel it is on the decline. The reason for this is that consumers can struggle to stick to dietary habits in the long-term. This is because better-for-you products can be associated with reduced sensory appeal, something that consumers are less accepting of. This is especially true when it comes to natural sweeteners which can be associated with a bitter aftertaste.
As such, whilst consumers will demonstrate negative sentiment towards sugar over the next twelve months, brands should apply cautions when developing strategies around the reformulation of products and reducing sugar content/switching to alternative sweeteners. This is because of irrespective of health concerns, consumers will continue to prioritize indulgence – especially as they seek out moments of indulgence to deal with the pressures of everyday life. This means that despite
what they say, consumers will not be over attentive to their sugar intake over the next twelve months.
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Editor, International Confectionery
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