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Consumers are confusing sugar and fat

Sugar vs Fat
  • 56% of people have not changed their eating habits as a result of reported increased sugar levels in certain food and drink
  • Making food cheaper is still the primary driver of making healthier choices with over half the population believing this
  • And with half of our respondents having been on a diet in the last year, attention is definitely drawn to what will assist weight loss and healthy eating

It appears that the UK population are struggling to understand whether they should be cutting out sugar, fat or both. In general, there are clear attempts to focus more on sugar than fat but when it comes to active weight loss (potentially as a result of too much sugar), decision making is reversed – cutting sugar gets left by the wayside in favour of reducing fat and portions, despite sugar being the most significant factor in dieting success.

Future Thinking, the business intelligence research consultancy, has today revealed the findings of the 2015 Grocery Eye, an annual independent study of supermarket shoppers that identifies perceptions towards purchasing and consuming food and drink as well as non-food products. The survey, now in its second year, monitors the sentiments of over 2,000 consumers to determine consumption and behaviour trends.

The results reveal that the number of people who consider themselves to have a healthy diet has gone up 5% since last year, but the total number remains low at 34%. When looking to purchase ‘healthy food’, a third of people use fat content as the most important indicator followed by sugar (22%) and calories (20%). Substantiating this, 40% of respondents show interest in low sugar products, suggesting we are not prepared to entirely give up on our sweet treats. The trend for eating simply prevails, with more interest in low sugar than artificial substitutes for sugar e.g. aspartame.

It appears that sugar is our nemesis. In spite of recent reports showing shockingly high sugar levels in certain food and drink, 56% of respondents have not changed their eating habits as a result of these findings. Furthermore, a quarter of respondents (24%) said their favourite product to buy was confectionary.

Despite our addiction, half of people have been on a diet or have tried to lose weight in the past year, actioned by doing exercise in conjunction with cutting out snacks. The report also found that 46% of people say that in the last year they have tried to be healthier and a notable finding is that people dieting vs being healthy have slightly different approaches. Dieting tends to be associated with ‘cutting out’ bad food, whereas being healthy is related more with eating greater amounts of fruit and vegetables, lower salt and sugar.

The study found that reducing the price of ‘food that is good for you’ would encourage more people to buy it. 65% of people stated that healthy eating is more expensive than eating unhealthily and 52% of respondents said that making food cheaper would make them eat more healthily.

One could argue (and plenty of government and food industry experts would) that healthy eating is not unachievable, even for the worst off in society and that it is a personal choice to do so. However, the survey found that only half of adults think they have the overall responsibility for encouraging healthy eating and 59% think parents are responsible for their children’s healthy eating, down from 75% in 2014. This has dramatically dropped from 88% last year, suggesting that attempts have tried and failed so people have become despondent. . Would the reintroduction of compulsory food education in schools be the way to regain personal control?

Claudia Strauss, Managing Director of FMCG and Shopper at Future Thinking, comments on the report findings:

“There continues to be confusion as to what being healthy really means and what foods you should and shouldn’t eat.  Consumers are bombarded with extensive and often contradictory messages which are leaving them feeling unengaged and helpless. It is clear that sugar is the villain of the piece and will likely remain so for a while but quite how to respond to this news is not yet clear for consumers. ”

“Post-recession, we knew that consumers would begin to attempt to be healthier again; however, there is still the need and, more importantly, the desire for more education around what is truly good for us.”

For more information about the findings of 2015 Grocery Eye, please contact Claudia Strauss on +44 (0)1865 336 400.

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