STOWE, VT. – A report of national eating trends presented at this week’s International Sweetener Symposium shed some light on the habits of consumers and the main drivers behind what we choose to eat during a meal. The report highlighted that when it comes to sweeteners, taste is king – something that has been reflected by recent consumer demand, driving manufacturers back to all natural-sugar.

There weren’t too many surprises to report – considering sugar has been the same safe, natural, and trusted food for the past 2,000 years – but there were some interesting trends when we compared all-natural sugar to the artificial sugar substitutes.

Joe Derochowski of the NPD group, told sugar cane and beet growers and other attendees exactly how the American people have been using sugar, based on statistics gathered from as far back as 1985 – before many of these man-made and chemical substitutes even existed.

“Usage of sugar is more dynamic and diverse in comparison to sugar substitutes,” Derochowski said. “Where 97 percent of people use sugar substitutes purely as an additive, only 80 percent of people use sugar this way. The other twenty percent, use it as a separate ingredient – meaning that it plays a broader role in our overall diet.” This is most likely due to the fact that sugar does much more than provide a sweet taste – it tenderizes, caramelizes, preserves, and enhances various foods according to the ingredients that it is paired with and how they are prepared – to name just a few of its functions.

Artificials, while they do provide sweetness, have different chemical make-ups and therefore do not react the same way in cooking, and are often times unable to withstand high temperatures.

Another consistency unveiled in the presentation, was the fact that taste is king when it comes to making food choices. In many ways, Derochowsi said, it is the point of entry for foods – the one thing that consumers look for above all else and will not compromise on.

And as far as sweeteners are concerned, sugar has been the gold standard in taste for as long as anyone can remember and is more familiar than the other sweeteners on the market. Because of this, people trust it.

“We’re not manufacturing taste, Mother Nature is,” said Sugar Association president and CEO Andy Briscoe. “Unlike the majority of other sweeteners out there that have to go through chemical alteration, taste testing and safety approvals, the taste of sugar is grown naturally in sugar beets and cane.”

Derochowski also pointed out that those consumers who are the most frequent sugar users (more than six times in a two week period) are not more likely to be overweight or obese when compared to the rest of population. The source of data for the findings presented at the International Sweetener Symposium is NPD’s National Eating Trends – a two week diary filled out by individual households, capturing both in-home and away from home consumption.

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