New quantitative consumer research commissioned by BENEO, a functional ingredient manufacturer, shows consumers perceive sugar as both a friend and foe in their nutrition. The results also underline that sugar and carbohydrates play a key role in consumer behavior when dealing with health concerns.
More than 5,000 consumers across five European countries were surveyed on their perception of sugar, carbohydrates and nutrition, with regard to blood glucose response.
Consumers See Carbohydrates as Key in Health Issues
The results show consumer-health concerns in order of importance are weight management (43 percent), fatigue or low energy (36 percent) and stress (35 percent). Consumers are aware that the amount and type of sugars, as well as carbohydrates in general, play a major role in coping with these health issues.
Consumers’ main motivation for sugar reduction in their nutrition was because of its negative effects on their health. Fifty-eight percent of those respondents who wanted to eat less sugar said their major driver was to control their weight. Also, the detrimental long-term effects of sugar consumption such as diabetes were a concern, being mentioned by nearly one out of three consumers who were trying to cut their sugar intake.
Although wanting to reduce the amount of sugar consumed, respondents were not prepared to forego the feeling of sugar-like indulgence: 60 percent said they ate sugar because they liked the taste, and one out of three participants (33 percent) said sugar improved their overall mood.
Consumers Increasingly Differentiate Between 'Good’ and ‘Bad’ Carbohydrates
Despite consumers seeing the benefits of less sugar intake, they also recognized that carbohydrates are the major energy source for body and brain. Forty-six percent of respondents stated the main reason they consumed carbohydrates was they “give energy." At the same time, consumers are starting to differentiate between different types of carbohydrates, with more than one out of two participants making a distinction between good and bad carbohydrates.
Whole-grain, fiber, complex carbohydrates and slow-release carbohydrates were seen as good, with 51 percent of respondents regarding slow-release carbohydrates as generally better and 60 percent linking slow-release carbohydrates with sustained energy.
“The research results show that sugar and carbohydrates play a decisive role in daily nutrition," said Gudrun Dold, consumer insights manager at BENEO. “Although consumers want to eat less sugar, they do not want to sacrifice that all-important sugar-like taste and indulgence. Consumers are also beginning to distinguish between good and bad carbohydrates, making it even more important for producers to consider the quality of the carbohydrates used, when developing game-changing food and drink products for every lifestyle and age group."
Replacing sugar and simple carbohydrates with slow-releasing carbohydrate ingredients such as chicory root fibers or sugar replacements can help manufacturers meet consumer demand for alternatives that support healthy weight and energy management, in addition to functional benefits, natural origins, low glycemic response, reduced calories and more.
Research Methods: BENEO conducted quantitative consumer research in five European countries (U.K., Spain, Germany, France and Poland). The survey was realized in 2015 by Insites, a consumer research agency with offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, U.K. and the United States. The shown results are weighted average among the five countries.