Sugar is a major topic across the globe due to the link with obesity and diabetes. This is resulting in consumers making conscious attempts to monitor their sugar intake. One way of doing this is to seek out naturally formulated products, or products associated with being free of sugar. Although consumer attitudes and behaviors may not always align, this nevertheless has implications for the chilled and frozen ready meal sector.

Currently, 39% of consumers say they are on a diet in order to lose weight, according to a survey of 25,000 consumers conducted by FMCG Gurus, UK. Of those consumers trying to lose weight, the Top 3 answers given were eat more fresh fruit and vegetables (54%), exercise more (51%) and look to reduce consumption of sugar (48%). The key finding from this is that consumers associate processed food with poor dietary habits and are trying to cut down on such products. This will be particularly true when it comes to processed food high in sugar.

When it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle, consumers want products that they deem natural and that are high in “good” ingredients and low in “bad” ingredients. These product attributes are often interlinked. For instance, research shows that 39% of consumers believe that zero sugar claims make a product healthy, whilst 58% of consumers also associate natural products from being free from sugar.

Also, consumer attitudes and behaviors do not always align. For instance, a total of 53% of consumers admit they have said they were going to cut down on sugar, but have not actually done so. Nevertheless, these findings are something that the chilled and frozen meal categories need to take into consideration. For instance, when it comes to such products, 41% say it’s important that products are naturally formulated, whilst 31% say they want to see zero sugar claims when buying such items.

When it comes to reassurance around sugar and natural formulation, brands and manufacturers need to take a transparent approach to communicating such information. Moreover, they need to offer consumers maximum reassurance that products contain only real ingredients. From a sugar perspective, the industry also needs to consider the challenges that exist when it comes to alternative sweeteners such as stevia. Indeed, whilst 62% believe that natural sweeteners are a healthier alternative to sugar, less than 10% of consumers seek out claims such as formulated with stevia in the ready meal sector. When questioned why, one of the key reasons is association with inferior taste. As such, any sugar-free claims also need to offer reassurance around taste.