When it comes to purchasing products with an added sweetner, sugar still remains the top choice for moms, according to a consumer survey of nearly 1,500 moms who do the primary shopping for their families.
But they are apparently making this choice with a troubled conscience. The same survey shows that upwards of 85 per cent of moms are at least somewhat concerned about the level of sugar in their families' diets, and an equal percentage are concerned about non-natural alternative sweetners.
The study was jointly conduced by LaunchForce, a marketing consultancy that specialises in moms and children, and PureCircle, the world's leading supplier of Reb A.
"From a qualitative perspective, the first thing that became apparent (in this survey) is that moms are being bombarded with sweet messages, and they’re ambivalent about them," says Tim Coffey, LaunchForce CEO. "They want to give their families sweet treats, yet they’re concerned about obesity, and how some sweeteners may affect their health."
They have reason to be worried.
More than 50 per cent of the adult US population is overweight, plus 10 per cent of all children. Nearly 8 per cent of Americans are living with diabetes. In August, the American Heart Association issued new recommendations to limit calories from added sugars to around 100 calories per day for most women, and 150 calories for most men.
As PureCircle's director of marketing, Jason Hecker, points out, this puts the average 12oz can of soda beyond the daily added sugar recommendation for a moderately active woman in her early 50s.
"There is a fundamental shift that is under way," Hecker said. "Some might say that it is a fairly bold statement to say that the momentum toward natural calorie reduction is unstoppable but what's happening in the markplace today is hard to ignore."
Stevia awareness growing
Stevia has already made strong gains in capturing moms' attention, the survey showed. The 40-minute, Internet-based study conducted in May 2009 involved mothers age 25-49 with at least one child aged 2-17. Stevia was on the radar of 35 per cent of them. (See chart 1)
"Moms' awareness of stevia is already quite high," Coffey said, in a webinar offered on PureCircle's webpage analyzing the survey results. "One in three moms, just six months after GRAS approval, were aware of the ingredient. It was almost as much as sucralose, which has been on the market for some time. This awareness level was greater than any of the branded names for the ingredient and certainly greater than the common names Reb A or Rebiana, which had practically no awareness at all."
Of course there is a difference between being aware of an ingredient, and having a positive attitude about it.
"In general, sweetners perceived to be more natural appeared at the top of the ranking -- sweetners like honey, brown sugar and regular sugar. Sweetners that appeared to be artificial appeared at the bottom of the list," Coffey said.
In addition, many moms were actively avoiding non-natural sugar alternatives. (See chart 2)
Very few moms have negative impressions of stevia. Honey ranked highest at nearly 80 per cent having a positive impression; brown, in the raw and regular sugars were viewed positively by 50-60 per cent of respondents; stevia had a 45 per cent positive impression rate, with many more not yet having formed an opinion.
The complete results of the survey have not yet been released. Contact PureCircle for more information.
For more on stevia, please see Kantha Shelke, PhD, takes on stevia.