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Australians want less sugar and more real food!

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It seems the sugar-laden, fake-food days are numbered!

Australian’s want less of the artificially made junk on our supermarket shelves, and are buying less and less of the super-refined sugar.

The stats have been identified in Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey, gathering data from over 30,000 people in 63 countries on self-reported dietary restrictions as well as the thoughts and feelings of consumers around foods commonly available.

And there seems to be a desire locally and globally for food that is real, whole, and supportive of health.

More of the good stuff

Over 50% of Australians have said they would prefer more ‘natural’ foods be available on our supermarket shelves, reflecting the growing trend toward simple, basic, real foods. In some ways, like food options used to be.

However, we do appreciate convenience and many are willing to pay for it, so no doubt packaged and pre-made foods will persist – just what goes into them may need to change to honour consumer desire.

“Informed and savvy consumers are demanding more from the foods they eat and some are prioritising ingredients over brands,” explains Andrew Mandzy, Director of Strategic Health and Wellness Insights, Nielsen. “To many consumers, simple is beautiful, and foods with a short list of recognisable ingredients resonate strongly.”

The shift is reflected globally, with many wishing to avoid foods with long lists of ingredients, saying no to anything artificial, and replacing the bad stuff and with the good.

Antibiotics, artificial preservatives, sweeteners and flavours, and added sugars are among the top 10 ingredients avoided by Australians and New Zealanders, driven by the perceived impact on health.

Making good food choices indicates people beginning to take charge of their own health. Globally, over 70% of the Nielsen survey respondents say they make dietary choices to prevent certain chronic health conditions, using food as medicine to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. This and more is detailed in the Global Ingredient and Out-of-Home Dining Trends report.

Along with a strong desire for all natural products, Australians are after foods that are low in artificial ingredients and sugar. And 46% of New Zealanders are after low sugar options, topping the list for what consumers want to see more of.

Less of the sweet stuff

Globally, being a ‘sugar-conscious’ consumer is becoming a more popular approach to dietary restriction in order to improve health.

In Australia, 59% of people surveyed make choices around food and drink to help prevent health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

Nearly a quarter of Aussies limit their daily sugar intake. And 44% avoid sugar as an ingredient, with over half of those choosing to do so because of concern for negative health impacts for themselves and loved ones.

This has been reflected in a decline in sugar sales – caster, raw, brown and white – by 3.5% between April 2015-April 2016.

On the flip-side, we are seeing an increase in sales of alternative natural sweeteners, like coconut or palm sugar.

But it is important to remember that to the body, sugar is received as sugar.

The various alternative sweeteners do have different degrees of processing, glycaemic index (GI), and nutrient profiles, so some are better for you than others.

If you are wanting to use some added sweetener, go as minimally processed as possible, low GI, and try to limit intake to 6 teaspoons a day. Or use fruit like mashed banana, stewed apple, or a date or two, and spices like cinnamon and vanilla as great natural whole food sources of sweet!

Interestingly, confectionery sales have actually increased by 4.3% in the last year despite the apparent desire by many to consume less sugar, indicating the strong desire for consumers to enjoy some kind of sweet treat.

Yet over a third of Australians are would like more ‘low-sugar’ or ‘sugar-free’ alternatives. So, for you savvy entrepreneurs out there, offering a product that is also low in added sugar and nutrient-dense is likely to find a very appreciative market!

Whilst we advocate making your own meals, snacks and treats (check out our great books, e-books and online recipes to see how easy it can be!), we understand life is busy!

In order to get more easy-to-grab foods that are affordable and can nourish and not punish us, we must keep asking for it. And one of the best ways to do that is to vote with your dollar, and support the food and drink that can support our health.

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)

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