Sugar reduction is not a global trend

by Jeff Gelski
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Per capita sugar consumption is rising in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, according to Euromonitor International.

LONDON — Reduced sugar products have had a limited global impact on retail sales, according to a Dec. 15 webinar from London-based Euromonitor International.

“Is there such a thing as an anti-sugar consumer?” asked Lauren Bandy, senior nutrition analyst for Euromonitor International. “I think the answer is probably no.”

The presentation looked at global retail sales for packaged foods and soft drinks (soda, juice, sports drinks, energy drinks and flavored bottled water). Global sales of packaged foods promoted for reduced sugar made up about 1% of total packaged foods sales. Reduced sugar products accounted for less than 10% of total soft drink sales in more than half the countries studied.

“I think it’s safe to say that low sugar products are relatively insignificant,” Ms. Bandy said.

Through the retail purchase of packaged foods and soft drinks, the average global consumer purchased 36 grams of sugar per day in 2014 after an annual growth rate of 2% from 2009-14. Euromonitor International expects the average global consumer to purchase 3 grams more of sugar per day in 2019 than in 2014, Ms. Bandy said.

The average consumer in the United States led the way in 2014, purchasing 127 grams of sugar per day. The average consumers in Germany and The Netherlands were at about 100 grams of sugar per day. The World Health Organization recommends sugar intake to be 10% or less of total intake, which would be about 50 grams of sugar per day, Ms. Bandy said. Several other countries, including Mexico, the United Kingdom and Australia, were “way above 10%,” she said.

Since consumers in North America and Western Europe already eat many sweet foods, per capita consumption growth was higher in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. More countries in those regions had per capita consumption growth rates nearing 5% for biscuits, cakes, chocolate confectionery and pastries.

The average consumer in India purchased 5 grams of sugar per day in 2014, which compared with 3 grams per day in 2009. Single-serve individual chocolate products weighing less than 20 grams and costing maybe 5c to 10c have ignited growth since the rural population in India can afford them, Ms. Bandy said.

Soft drinks promoted for reduced sugar hardly are seen in India, she said. The percentage of sales for reduced sugar items in the soft drink category also were well below 5% for China, Vietnam and Russia. Reduced sugar soft drink sales accounted for more than 20% of total soft drink sales in Norway and Argentina and for more than 10% in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia and the United States.

The Euromonitor International webinar also looked at the compound annual growth rates for sweeteners in food and beverages globally from 2010-15. Among bulk sweeteners, the CAGR neared 4% for fructose and was above 2% for glucose/fructose syrups and sucrose. Brown sugar was under 2%. For high-intensity sweeteners, the CAGR was over 2% for saccharin and nearly 2% for sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Aspartame was under 1%.

“We haven’t really seen a big switch to high-intensity sweeteners,” Ms. Bandy said. “There hasn’t been a big move away from sugars.”

She added consumer concerns over artificial ingredients may have a negative effect on high-intensity sweeteners.

Stevia, a high-intensity sweetener extracted from a plant, experienced a CAGR of 50% globally from 2010-15, however.

“Obviously it is coming from a very small base, which is why it has seen such high growth rates,” Ms. Bandy said of stevia.

Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True, both of which contain stevia as a way to reduce sugar, have had success, she said. Global sales of Coca-Cola Life reached about $125 million in the past year.

“Although if you compare that to the $50 billion sold and spent on standard red Coke, obviously it kind of dwarfs in comparison,” she said. “So I guess again it kind of goes back to the fact that these reduced sugar products really represent a significantly small portion of the market.”
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