Shoppers Least Comfortable With Sweetener, HFCS

March 16, 2010

Food companies are responding to a growing number of consumers concerned about the sweeteners used in the foods that they buy.

Food companies are responding to a growing number of consumers concerned about the sweeteners used in the foods that they buy. Companies such as Kraft Foods, ConAgra, and PepsiCo are making moves to replace High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), a less expensive sugar alternative, with cane sugar, claiming that tests are showing that's what consumers prefer.

In 2004, research from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University and University of North Carolina, suggested a possible link between HFCS and the obesity epidemic. And, Michael Jacobson with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, feels like this research may have launched a series of image problems for the sugar alternative  - issues that have no scientific facts to truly back up the myth. He was quoted in the Wall Street Journal, "They didn't have one shred of evidence to back up their theory. And they eventually recanted, and they realized that HFCS and sugar are essentially the same. But they couldn't put the genie back into the bottle."

Regardless of the ongoing debate regarding the nutritional differences, some food companies simply feel that consumers like the taste of sugar better and feel all around more comfortable with ingredients that don't sound like they were created in a laboratory. In addition to that, the nation has seen a large movement of parents and school systems working to reduce the amount of sugars in the foods served at schools - the goal in mind is tackling the youth obesity epidemic.

We conducted a poll on SupermarketGuru to get an idea how shoppers feel about their sugar intake and what sugars they are most comfortable with. Here's what we found:

When asked about their sugar consumption, 48% said they consume "just the right amount", while 47% feel they "consume too much." Also, when asked if they are trying to cut down on their sugar intake, 68% said, "yes" and 32% said, "no."

In addition, we asked consumers what sweetener they feel is best. The number one answer was Honey (31%), and in a tie for second place (19%) were the sweeteners, Cane Sugar and Agave Sugar. Table Sugar came in third (16%), and Beet Sugar, Brown Sugar, and Molasses each received four percent of the votes. Brown Rice Sugar and HFCS each only received one percent of votes.

A clear indication that food companies are paying attention to shoppers' needs, when asked what sweetener they feel worst about, 81% said that would be HFCS. Second place was Table Sugar with eight percent of the votes.

When it comes to low calorie sweeteners, 31% said they prefer Splenda, and 21% chose Stevia. However, 35% said they prefer "none."

The last question addressed the issue of some states proposing a "Soda Tax," which is ideally designed to combat obesity as well as create funding for health programs. Fifty-two percent of our readers said they do not think soda should be taxed a penny per ounce. Seventeen percent said they "don't care", while 15% answered "yes" and another 15% answered "yes, and it should be a higher tax."