You don’t have to look far to find a doctor, scientist or dietician who believes sugar is toxic. This flood of individuals speaking out about the common food ingredient has many consumers thinking twice about products that contain too much sugar.
While table sugar isn’t seen as terribly harmful in moderation, many people continue to consume excessive sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the highly processed form of sugar that is cheaper and 20 percent sweeter than table sugar. Many of the products on the inner aisles of the grocery stores are highly processed and loaded with calories because of HFCS. A few years ago, consumer disapproval of products with HFCS led many brands to replace it with regular sugar. The recent pushback against all added sugars has created a wave of products using sugar alternatives and substitutes, like stevia or honey. Sugar substitutes have come a long way since aspartame, and they now represent a multi-billion dollar industry with significant growth potential, thanks to the health-conscious trend.
The sugar controversy has been a popular subject since the early 2000s, as the truth about the detrimental effects has slowly come to light. Overconsumption of sugar has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity and even cancer. Recently, it was revealed that in 1967 a group called the Sugar Research Foundation, now known as the Sugar Association, paid Harvard scientists a large sum of money to publish a research review on sugar, fat and heart disease that minimalized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.
Some groups believe we should be doing more to deter consumers from wanting to ingest sugary products. The World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments across the globe to fight the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics by placing a tax on all sugary drinks. The organization believes, based on growing evidence, that taxes and subsidies can fight obesity and diabetes by influencing purchasing behavior and curbing consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.
As more and more consumers feel the need to check labels and are disappointed by what they discover, the loyalty they formerly felt toward sugar-laden brands and products will begin to decrease. Consumers, concerned about the effects of sugar, are increasingly seeking out ways to decrease their consumption. This creates a unique opportunity for brands to continue to expand into the no-sugar, low-sugar, no- HFCS and sugar-alternatives areas.