Consumers' Focus on Health Triggers Rise in Sugar Substitutes: NPD

Sugar now ranks as the top item that consumers try to avoid in their diets, according to The NPD Group, and distributors are following suit by increasing their shipments of sugar substitutes to restaurants and foodservice outlets.

Avoidance of sugar has triggered double-digit growth in the distribution of sugar-free, unsweetened and reduced sugar products over the last year. In fact, case shipments of bulk sugar substitutes to foodservice outlets increased by 22 percent in the year ending August 2015 compared to the year-ago, reports NPD’s SupplyTrack, while shipments of Stevia increased by 11 percent, more than any other type of sugar substitute.

Additionally, sugar is now tied with calories as the top item that adults check on nutrition labels (42 percent) – followed by sodium (37 percent) and fat (34 percent).

Although all adult age groups express trying to avoid sugar in their diets, concern is highest among adults 55 and older, and this group also consumes the most sugar-free, unsweetened and reduced sugar products than other adult age groups. Young children, under 6, consume the most sugar substitutes among all age groups.

“Consumer concern about sugar in their foods and beverages is an example of how eating patterns can shift,” says Annie Roberts, VP of NPD’s SupplyTrack. “It might seem like consumption patterns don’t change much from one year to the next, but there is movement and it’s key that foodservice distributors, manufacturers, and operators be prepared to address these shifts.”