USA – Kerry, a leader in global food ingredients, has released the findings of new clean label research on sweetening agents which reveals that 71% of US consumers now read the label for sugar content.

According to FoodingredientsFirst, the company added that almost half of people surveyed also wanted to cut down their sugar consumption.

American consumers’ awareness and preference toward natural and artificial sweetening agents are explored in Kerry’s latest 20-page White Paper entitled “Sensibly Sweet, Formulating for Clean Label Taste.”

This study aligns with Kerry’s strategic emphasis on clean label opportunities in taste and nutrition.

Its research focused on how consumer perceptions can inform the manufacturing, retail, and foodservice industries in an effort to understand the future of food & beverages.

Kerry continues to formulate food & beverages that tap into what consumers are looking for while keeping ahead of the curve on what is coming next.

The company claims that its drive is to “deeply understand consumer behavior around sweetness,” in particular, to ask questions to better understand expectations of taste, quantity and source of sweetness, and how these vary across indulgent and non-indulgent categories.

“Consumers seek products made with natural and familiar sweetening agents such as honey and sugar. With increasing awareness, consumers also focus on the amount of sugar per serving, particularly in carbonated soft drinks, cakes and cookies, ice cream, and all other beverages,” the company said.

Growing concerns regarding adult and childhood obesity and diabetes have led consumers to increase their scrutiny of sweetness in the food & beverages they consume, said Kerry.

“The perceived drawbacks of sugar and other natural and artificial sweetening agents have resulted in changing consumption behavior,” according to the White Paper.

Kerry added that not only are consumers seeking clean label products, its research shows that they are also reviewing the “type of sweetening agents,” followed by the “grams of added sugar per serving.”

The type of sweetening agents was significantly more important to men (57 percent vs 45 percent for women) and to older consumers, such as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

Consumer knowledge around sweetening agents is mixed, said Kerry, with nearly half (48 percent), of consumers believing the ideal daily sugar intake is six to nine teaspoons, which is in line with the guidance that several health and nutrition institutes recommend.

The report added that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were more likely to expect lower sugar levels as ideal compared to Millennials.

In addition to exploring consumer preferences, Kerry also investigated consumer purchase decision drivers when presented with a packaged product.

Honey, sugar, maple syrup, coconut sugar and agave came out on top in terms of driving a preference for a product.

Products with 50 calories or less were most preferred, while 8-10g of protein was the only level of protein that drove preference.

“Across 850 different product combinations of sweetening agents, protein content, and calorie count, the most preferred product across all categories was one with honey, 8-10g of protein and the lowest amount of calories,” said the report.

The results of the study provide unique insight into consumer preferences of types of sweetening agents, the preferred intensity of sweetness and impact on the taste and nutrition of the product.

“Consumer focus on low and reduced sugar products has never been higher. Our research helps us better understand consumer awareness of various sweetening agents and their preferences across various product categories,” said Soumya Nair, Director of Marketing Insights.

“Understanding the underlying triggers to sugar reduction and staying ahead of these evolving consumer behaviors helps us better innovate and develop focused and consumer-driven solutions for our customers.”