The Sugar Association in the US has released a new consumer research report showing grocery shoppers are confused about the use of sugar substitutes in packaged food.
While once limited to use as tabletop sweeteners and ingredients in diet foods, alternative sweeteners can now be found in a variety of consumer products including breads, cereals, granola bars, yogurt, ice cream, flavored milk, and children's beverages.
Yet, current labeling practices do not clearly disclose their presence in consumer products. Participants in the nationally-representative survey preferred additional labeling disclosures by food companies as a remedy for the lack of transparency on labels for low- and no- calorie sweeteners.
Key data points in the research supporting labeling for low- and no- calorie sweeteners, conducted by Quadrant Strategies for the Sugar Association, show:
- 76% of consumers think it is important to know if their food contains sugar substitutes.
- 73% of parents think it's important to know the amount of sugar substitutes in their children's food.
- 63% of the time, consumers fail to recognize sugar substitutes as sweetening ingredients used in food and beverages.
- More than 69% of consumers believe that products labeled "reduced sugar" or "no sugar added" are lower-calorie products.
- When shown a specific product package that states "0 grams of sugar" and "Naturally Sweetened, Nothing Artificial" on the front, 54% of consumers stated they would not expect to find sugar substitutes (note: this sample product indeed contains the sweetener stevia leaf extract).
- 66% of consumers think it's important that food companies be required to clearly identify sugar substitutes as 'sweeteners' in ingredient lists.