The majority of consumers in key European markets are cutting back on their consumption of sugar, new research from Mintel has revealed.

It found that more than three in five Italians (64%), Spanish (63%) and Polish (61%) consumers said they were actively reducing or avoiding sugary foods. Over half of the French (59%) and Germans (51%) admitted they were cutting back on consumption while 65% of UK consumers agreed that a healthy diet should be low in sugar.

The survey of 7,000 internet users - in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland - also revealed that there was a gap in the market with only 5% (Mintel’s Global New Products Database) of new products carrying the low-, no or reduced sugar claim.

The UK market is one of the major drivers with 7% of food and drink products launched between January and October 2015 having a low, no or reduced sugar claim. This is compared to only 3% in Italy; 5% Spain and 4% each in Poland, France and Germany.

Reduced sugar levels

Mintel’s research showed consumers were looking for reduced sugar levels in a number of categories.

In the sweet category, 66% of Polish, 60% of Spanish and 60% of French consumers agreed there were not enough healthy sweets such as sugar-free available.

Mintel also found that the top sugar or sweetener ingredient consumers viewed as healthy was honey, with Polish (87%), Italian (83%) and Spanish (80%) agreeing it was good for their health.

The interest in cutting down on sugar has also sparked a taste for more sour flavours. Two in five (43%) Polish, three in 10 (30%) French and 23% of German consumers expressed an interest in sweets with extreme flavours.

Speaking at Fi Europe, Chris Brockman, food and drink research manager EMEA at Mintel, said: “Excessive sugar consumption continues to be criticised by the media and health professionals alike, resulting in today’s sugar backlash. This has led to sugar replacing fat and salt as the new dietary pariah across Europe. There is therefore a key opportunity for brands to address consumer fears and adapt their products to carry a low-, no or reduced sugar claim.”