Does Sugar Labeling Really Matter To Consumers?

If you have a favorite food or beverage, what information could make you stop enjoying it or choosing it for your family? Would a certain artificial or unexpected ingredient put you off?

Could its processing method or source make you rethink your purchase? What if it simply contained a completely natural ingredient, one found in a range of other foods and that even has a place in your own cooking?

According to a recent study, the last scenario may be true for some consumers, particularly those who make choices on behalf of small children.

The ingredient is sugar, and according a Beverage Industry magazine report, health warning labels based on the sweet substance may be enough to stop consumers from buying certain products.

sugar_DishImage Source: Wikimedia

Reducing, Banning, Or Just Labeling?
Sugar has been a hot topic when it comes to regulatory and public health concerns, as well as debates over personal and corporate responsibility.

Along with trans fats and sodium, sugar could have a significant impact on public health, and yet consumers often have a tough time understanding just how much they’re consuming in a given product.

This has led some watchdog organizations to call for action on labeling, reducing, or even banning quantities of certain ingredients from processed and restaurant prepared food and beverages.

Sugar reduction or removal could mean a major upset for many in the food and beverage industry. Removing or reducing sugar from a recipe could completely alter the appearance, texture, and taste of a familiar product.

Labeling sugar, on the other hand, doesn’t require manufacturers to adjust their recipes or process, it simply informs the consumer of what comes with that familiar look and taste, but could that be just as detrimental to some in the food and beverage industry?

 Cookies_N'_Cream_Frapino Image Source: Wikimedia

Product Choices And Parents
According to a survey of over 2000 parents, Beverage Industry magazine found that the majority of consumers would be less likely to choose a product if they were aware of either the calorie count or a label that specifically indicated a health warning.

The health warning label was shown to have the greatest discouragement in choosing a sugary drink, compared to the calorie count alone, and compared to no calorie information or health warning on the front of a product.

When it comes to enacting some form of easily visible, standardized sugar labeling, nearly three quarters of the surveyed parents were in favor.

Sucre_blanc_cassonade_complet_rapaduraImage Source: Wikimedia

Could Labeling Backfire?
Could an explicit sugar content label have a major impact on the food and beverage industry in the foreseeable future?

Critics of labeling that argued that simply warning consumers of sugar content doesn’t address the problem of public education on how dietary choices actually affect overall health and how sugar impacts the body in the long and short term.

It is also argued that labeling could backfire, making a high sugar product more enticing to adolescents or that it could cause complacency in consumers—functioning as a hindrance to business and no more of a deterrent than labels found on potentially harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco.

Further, some major food and beverage manufacturers have already made ingredient changes in an effort to stay relevant and marketable to a more health conscious consumer without specific policy changes. Does this mean regulations like sugar labeling could be too little too late when it comes to public health?

What are your thoughts on this issue? Would a change in sugar labeling have an impact on your company or industry?

Article Sources:
http://www.cnn.com
http://cvbj.biz
http://news.health.com

Lisa Myers
 

Is a blogger with an interest for all things mechanical. She is a full-time mom with three active boys, who loves encouraging them to explore the world of science and engineering. They spend a lot of time together playing with Legos.

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