Consumers are struggling to differentiate between sugar and fat

04/06/2015

Findings from the Grocery Eye study, conducted by business intelligence consultancy, Future Thinking, show that the UK population is struggling to understand whether they should be cutting out sugar, fat or both from their diets.

  • 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

In general, there are clear attempts to focus more on sugar than fat. However, when it comes to active weight loss the decision making is reversed and cutting sugar gets left by the wayside in favour of reducing fat and portion sizes, despite sugar being the most significant factor in dieting success.

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 Britons are not prepared to entirely give up on our sweet treats.

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.

Over half of the respondents (52%) stated 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.

It can be argued (and plenty of government and food industry experts would) that healthy eating is achievable, even for the worst off in society. However, the survey found that only half of adults think they have the overall responsibility for encouraging healthy eating and just 59% think parents are responsible for their children’s healthy eating. This has dramatically dropped from 75% last year, suggesting that any 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 overwhelmed. 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.”

The Grocery Eye is 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. 

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