The Wellness Movement and Alternative Sweeteners

By Joshua Weatherwax

5 min read

March 4, 2022

Over the centuries, sugar has been regarded as a medicine, a spice, a symbol of royalty, a source of wealth and for some, a risk to health.  As an ingredient in a broad range of modern packaged foods, sugar serves two primary purposes—for its taste and recipe properties.

Sugar alternatives—both artificial and naturally-derived—are widely incorporated today to provide sweet taste in foods and beverages with fewer unwanted calories or other unwanted effects on wellness. Plant-based sweeteners are far outpacing sales growth in total Food & Beverage (+17%) versus 2 years ago, according to NielsenIQ Product Insight. Products that claim to contain natural sweeteners have grown a whopping 91%.

Read on to learn more about how the health and wellness business landscape has been shifting, how consumers are thinking about sugar and sugar alternatives, and how these attitudes impact their purchases. 

A cautious love affair with sweets

Consumers seek out sweet flavors because they enjoy them. They make sweetener choices and food product choices for several personal, health and wellness, and environmental reasons:

  • To limit caloric intake as a means of weight control and to avoid “empty” calories
  • To manage blood sugar (diabetes and other health conditions)
  • To limit “total sugar” or “added sugar” consumption as a matter of general wellness
  • To avoid artificial or chemical ingredients (preference for natural products, clean label, taste)
  • To opt for products whose production is better for the environment

Sometimes these motives may be combined, as when a consumer seeks to limit refined sugar intake and also prefers an “all-natural” alternative sweetener, such as monk fruit, stevia extract, or the more recently introduced Reb M (a rarer extract from the stevia plant). In the past year alone, NielsenIQ Label Insight Search data recorded over 2.1 million searches for Stevia, 1.1 million searches for monk fruit, and 367 thousand searches for Erythritol. Qualified claims of erythritol are included in baking mixes and staples, which accounts for $30.9M and $57.8M in sales last year. This item is often found in Candy, gum, and Mints ($113.7M) according to Nielsen Product Insight.

Freedom from sugars

Almost 40% of households follow a special diet, with consumers watching sugar, carbs, sodium, calories, or some combination of these products. According to the latest CDC data (2018), 34.2 million people of all ages (10.5% of the U.S. population) had diabetes. An estimated 88 million adults aged 18 years or older (34.5% of the U.S. population) had prediabetes.

Both at-risk and low-risk consumers are growing increasingly conscious of limiting their sugar intake to avoid “empty calories” and other negative health impacts.

When asked what factors are causing them to consume less sugar and/or sugar-sweetened food and beverages this year, more than half (53.1%) cited a desire to prevent or improve a specific health condition. A desire to improve mental wellness was cited by 31% of respondents, and the advice of a medical professional was cited by 42.7%.

‘Treat yourself’ movement

Sugar alternatives will continue to gain momentum. In the recent webinar “A Look Ahead: Total Wellness in 2022,” NielsenIQ thought leader Sherry Frey indicated that part of the definition of wellness means embracing comfort food, especially during uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

Consumers will continue to search and buy sweetener and sweetener-laced food products in their pursuit of wellness. Brand marketers and retailers are tasked to ensure their product offerings satiate the appetites of the sugar-conscious.

Follow the Trends with Data

Meeting the needs of the modern wellness consumer requires first understanding their changing needs. Whether they’re avoiding sugar, migrating to clean label living, or switching to non-dairy milk brands, we’ve got the data to help you find your niche.

That’s why we recommend checking out Byzzer Total Wellness. You can get the business-ready insights to inform your marketing, product innovation, and growth strategies by understanding your marketplace in a way that consumers shop. The insights are delivered as reports, ready to be used by all of your stakeholders for immediate decision-making. You’ll be able to measure sales and growth by product attribute, optimize your assortment to meet preferences, capitalize on new opportunities, provide the best packaging details, make the correct attribute claims, and excel as a CPG brand as wellness becomes mainstream.

Learn more about Total Wellness here.

 

This content was originally posted on NielsenIQ.com. For the full interview, check out the post here.

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