BY JOHN NEVENS
MANAGING DIRECTOR, BRIDGETHORNE
Sugar content in food and drinks is the greatest concern for shoppers, being rated as more serious than fat content, additives, salt content and calories and this is having an impact on buying behaviour. That’s just one of the findings from the first Bridgethorne Shopper Index, a quarterly survey of shopper opinions, the first of which will be published in full in September.
Sugar is the area of greatest concern for shoppers, cited by 49.2% of respondents compared to 44% for fat content and 41.6% for additives. This concern appears to be driven primarily by health concerns (28.2% cited the fact that sugar caused health problems as their principal concern) and is possibly top of mind due to recent media coverage. Over half of respondents said that they are well aware about hidden sugar content in food. This awareness is most prevalent among women (56%) and the older generation, with 62% awareness among those aged over 55. Nearly two thirds of respondents stated they are seeking to reduce sugar in their diets.
Concern about what goes into our food is heightened among those with families. Here, health and wellbeing is of paramount importance with sugar and fat cited as being of greatest importance. Other clear delineations include that women express more concern particularly in the areas of fat and sugar. Their main concern (for sugar at least) centres upon health concerns. Also, people living in the South of England appear to have greater levels of concern than those in the North with main differences (in sugar) being on preference, suggesting those in the North may have a sweeter tooth.
Shoppers appear to be voting with their purses and wallets. 75% of respondents said that they are actively buying fewer sugary products, 27.6% say they are switching to lower sugar products whilst 21.6% have stopped eating sugary products completely. It also appears that demand for reduced- and zero-sugar products will continue to rise. 44.9% of respondents said they are buying low- or no-sugar drinks whilst 30.1% of respondents say they are buying low- or no sugar-food products such as reduced-sugar tomato ketchup. Significantly more women than men are buying sugar-free drinks and products – 79% of women are buying fewer sugary drinks compared to 60% of men.
Concerns about what goes into food influences shopper behaviour with over 85% checking labels: 22.4% of respondents said they always check labels, 31.2% frequently check labels and 32% sometimes check labels. Only 8.8% said they occasionally checked labels whilst just 5.6% admitted to never checking food labeling (though 12% of male respondents say they never check sugar content on food labels). Sugar and fat again top the poll for what shoppers check most on labels with sugar the clear leader (56.8% to 49.2%).
Sugar is clearly the biggest concern, perhaps indicating a long term shift in shopper and consumer behaviour and attitudes. It would appear that manufacturers and retailers are aware and have proactively addressed shoppers’ desires for clear labelling; over 73% of our respondents think that labelling is well communicated. This is further reflected by the fact that over half of our respondents (51.6%) felt that no improvements needed to be made to food labelling.
What is clear from these findings is that the demand and need for lower sugar products will not subside. Long-term global macro-health trends alongside revelations in the UK such as childhood obesity are making this a matter that neither the retailer nor the manufacturing communities can ignore. It is fast becoming an area of “must have” corporate responsibility.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020