New global consumer research from Kerry has revealed that consumers are concerned about the long-term negative effects of high sugar intake. Health, with a focus on improving immunity, gut health and mental wellness, are primary reasons why consumers are taking steps to cut back on how much sugar they consume.
In South East Asia, as many as 86% of respondents are concerned about overconsumption of sugar leading to diabetes, while more than 70% want to cut their sugar intake to enjoy quality of life. At the same time, 62% are doing so to avoid potential health issues. A total of 82% of global consumers agree that reduced sugar products are healthier.
The findings were revealed in Kerry’s worldwide Sensibly Sweet survey conducted among more than 12,000 consumers across 24 countries including Europe, North America, Australia, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and South Africa.
Kerry’s study in South East Asia revealed three consumer profiles around sugar and sweetness perception: the Reduced Sugar Seeker, Zero Sugar Advocates, and the Taste Chaser. At 47%, the Reduced Sugar Seeker makes up the largest consumer segment, citing a healthier lifestyle as their key motivation in cutting back on sugar.
The Taste Chaser, the second largest consumer segment in South East Asia, revealed the most interesting finding. They prefer not to consume reduced or zero sugar products to avoid the negative health effects of artificial sweeteners as well as the poor taste and sensorial experience that often come with it. Their preference is to eat in moderation; however, they are open to reduced or low sugar products, particularly in indulgent categories like ice cream or coffee beverages, if they taste good.
Sugar has long been at the centre of the taste-versus-nutrition debate. However, post-pandemic perceptions are reframing the way people think about sweetened food and drinks, ultimately changing their relationship with sugar. A large majority of respondents in South East Asia, especially Indonesia, prefer natural sweeteners. Those who do not like artificial sweeteners say they are bad for health and have harmful side effects. Most expressed a desire for plant-derived sweeteners in the future. Besides honey and sugar, there is high preference for stevia, followed by jaggery, palm sugar and fructose.
Commenting on the findings, Young Kim, vice-president of taste, Kerry Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, said: “Our research found that a balanced taste between sweet, salty and spicy is important for Southeast Asian consumers. Amidst growing consumer health consciousness and governments regulating the reduction of sugar content in foods and beverages, the ability to reduce sugar content in a product while still delivering the sweetness impact and full body mouthfeel that sugar offers, is key to managing sweetness sensibly in new food and beverage formulations.”
Soumya Nair, global consumer research and insights director at Kerry, added: “Our latest Kerry research confirms a precarious new balance around sweetness. Although consumers have positive emotions about it, one thing remained universal in the survey: the need for healthier alternatives and sugar-reduction solutions. Health and taste are crucial factors when consumers consider low and reduced sugar alternatives. Currently, taste is a barrier but this gap creates a clear opportunity for brands to meet consumer demand for more healthier options that offer the same flavour experience they enjoy.”