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French sweet tooth holds sugar opportunities

By Lindsey Partos , 17-Nov-2009

Opportunities for low-sugar formulations could potentially reside in France with a new study showing eight out of ten French people consume a reduced sugar product at least once a week.

But opportunities to boost the bottom line do not stop at low-sugar formulations. According to the survey of 4000 consumers for the sugar association Cedus, eight out of ten French eat sugar, in any form, once a week at home.

"White or cane, added to a yoghurt or used in a cake recipe, the French enjoy their sugar at home," states the report, conducted by French institution Credoc that analysed a 2006-2007 survey by the French food safety agency, Afssa.

Today, consumer demand in the food domain is peppered with health concerns. But these concerns sit, arguably uncomfortably, next to their buoyant desire for indulgence.

And a key challenge for food manufacturers, from dairy firms to biscuit makers, is to design food products that can fittingly juxtapose these parallel consumer desires.

The sugar paradox

This challenging juxtaposition is illustrated by the Cedus report that finds 35 per cent of the adults questioned in the survey eat low-sugar products once a week, principally in the form of drinks, fresh products and fruit compotes.

But, they stress, these same people actually consume between 30 and 50 per cent more sugar products in general, be they low sugar or not.

"Low sugar consumers eat fewer calories, drink less alcohol, and fewer fats but, paradoxically, this same category of consumers have the largest sugar contribution to their overall calorie count," explains the report.

This phenomenon, they suggest, is largely explained by their tendency to eat "more dairy, sugared and fruit-based products, at the expense of starchy foods".

The largest swathe of low-sugar consumers hails from women, with, not surprisingly, consumers on a diet representing a higher proportion of sales.

Sweet tooth at breakfast

French children polled in the survey are, on average, eating 5g of sugar a week compared to more than twice that amount - 11.5g - per adult.

"A difference explained by the large consumption of sugar in hot drinks, such as coffee and tea," proffers the report.

Breakfast time is the key moment for the French sugar fix, representing 47 per cent of total consumption for adults and 33 per cent for children. White sugar shaken on dairy products and fruit or taken in coffee and tea - these two latter representing more than 50 per cent of quantities consumed - are the main areas of consumption, states the report.

And according to the Credoc analysis, sugar used in home baking also represents a significant slice of weekly consumption.

Finally, more men than women apparently consume white table sugar, while the 'feminine population', they suggest, has a penchant for sugar present in cakes and bakery products.