Consumers’ intent, actual purchase differs

February 17, 2015

Consumers continue to say they avoid specific ingredients, but purchase data shows otherwise, according to the 2015 Sweetener360, an annual research study completed in part by Nielsen and Mintel Consulting and commissioned by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA).

“More than ever, widespread misinformation from consumer news and social media is motivating consumers to say they avoid specific food ingredients,” said Martin Concannon, Manager of Lafayette Associates and a Sweetener360 research analyst. “This new research separates reality from buzz, which helps food and beverage manufacturers avoid making unnecessary changes to sweetener formulations and marketing strategies.”

Consistent with the 2014 analysis, the study revealed six distinct segments of consumers who purchase sweetened products, ranging from bachelors who say they have no health concerns to “all natural” moms who say they’re avoiding all sweeteners and GMOs. Based on attitudes alone, the 2015 analysis revealed that all of these segments are becoming more mindful about health and wellness.

More consumers are claiming to avoid total sugars (up from 21% in 2014 to 25.4% in 2015) and the segment that claims to be most mindful about health and wellness has grown to be the largest (up from 15% of the total population in 2014 to 19% in 2015). Regardless of this shift in attitudes, purchase data show that buying habits haven’t changed. Every consumer segment continues to buy its share of products formulated with all types of sweetener ingredients, including sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and low-/no-calorie sweeteners.

The study also analyzed sweetener attitudes and behavior by age group. Survey data revealed that 46% of Millennials claim it’s worth the sacrifice to pay more for foods and beverages made with sweetener ingredients that are perceived as “better for you”—more than any other age group. However, purchase data show that Millennials are purchasing more than their fair share of HFCS- and sugar-sweetened products. While this age group makes up 20% of all food and beverage purchases, they buy 22% of all HFCS-sweetened products and 21.2% of all sugar-sweetened products.

Press release