Even in the season of fruitcakes and cookie swaps sales of sugar aren’t so sweet. Americans are buying significantly less sugar this year, even during the holidays¬– usually a home baking bonanza when sugar sales double.
Reuters reports that in the biggest decline in sugar sales in at least four years, purchases have fallen 4.4 percent in the year through October, according to Nielsen data, a drop grocers attribute to growing consumer consciousness over the negative health effects of sugar.
"Sugar has become one of the new trendy enemies," Sean Lucan, a professor of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York told the news source. "It's almost become what dietary fat was in the 1980s and 1990s."
The shift from sugar in bagged and packaged form comes as the “war on sugar” crescendos, with bitter debates between government, food companies and health advocates over proposals to add labels to products containing added sweeteners.
Reuters conducted an informal survey of five U.S. grocery store chains, with participants reporting a change in customer buying habits that suggests a long-term shift in tastes and supports data that shows waning appetite for sugar. The survey found that some grocers including C-Town and Whole Foods Market have seen a surge in popularity of alternatives to traditional sugar like honey, agave, palm sugar and coconut sugar.
"Customers are migrating toward less processed sugar, alternatively-sweetened products," Errol Schweizer, global grocery coordinator at Whole Foods told Reuters.