Sugar Reduction in the US & Canada

Explore how sugar reduction is a developing trend in North America

June 27, 2024 – The quest for healthier lifestyles in North America is driving a shift towards sugar reduction. Consumers are increasingly conscious of their sugar intake, seeking out products that offer a balance of indulgence and wellbeing. Here we provide a comprehensive overview of sugar reduction trends in North America, analyzing consumer insights, product trends, and the impact of innovation in the market.

Consumer Insights

North American consumers are increasingly prioritizing health and wellness, with a strong focus on reducing sugar intake. This is reflected in their purchasing decisions, with a growing demand for products carrying sugar-related claims.

In the US, 46% of consumers are conscious of limiting sugar in their diet, and in Canada 55% are conscious of the same. This awareness is particularly pronounced among older generations, with a significant jump in importance placed on healthy food and beverage choices among those aged 55 and over.

While consumers are seeking healthier options, they still want the opportunity to indulge in sweet treats and snacks. Almost half of consumers are willing to compromise on the level of indulgence for healthier alternative foods, indicating a desire for “feel-good” products that are also good for them. Additionally, more than 1 in 3 consumers in North America say that indulgent foods could be healthier if they had fewer negatives or artificial ingredients, and 1 in 3 say indulgences should have more natural ingredients. This supports manufacturer efforts to reduce sugar and increase the use of natural sugar substitutes.

What’s Shaping the Sugar Reduction Trend?

In the North American food and beverage market, sugar related claims have seen modest growth. The two most common sugar-related claims, sugar-free and no added sugar, each appear on 2 in 5 launches with a sugar-related claim. Sugar-free claims show the strongest growth, followed by low sugar and then no added sugar.

Sugar-related claims are seen most often in the region on sports nutrition and soft drinks, with alcoholic beverages, ready meals and side dishes, baby and toddler food, and bakery products driving growth.

New products with sugar-related claims are increasingly paired with energy, vegan, and plant-based claims. Additionally, global leading companies are actively launching new products with sugar-related claims. Danone, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola are some of the most active launchers of food and beverage in North America with sugar-related claims. Companies who are rapidly increasing their launches of products with sugar-related claims include Dole Food Company, Wakefern Food Corporation, and Hain Celestial Group.

Among the different types of sweeteners used in products with sugar-related claims, bulk, artificial, and natural sweeteners are most common, followed by sugar, syrup, and honey ingredients, and finally fibers. Bulk, artificial, and natural sweeteners have been steadily increasing in popularity over the past five years, and now are present in over half of products launched with sugar-related claims.

Sugar Reduction

Beverages and Sugar Reduction

Beverage launches with sugar-related claims showed modest growth from 2019 to 2023, with the strongest growth seen in sugar-free claims. Alcoholic beverages, sports drinks, and soft drinks were the leading categories driving this trend.

The most common sugar-related claims were “added sugar,” “sugar-free,” and “low/no/reduced sugar.” The fastest-growing claims differed across beverage subcategories, with “low sugar” leading in soft drinks and “sugar-free” leading in sports nutrition.

The use of sweeteners in beverages is evolving, with a shift towards natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit extract, as well as sweet fibers like inulin. Bulk sweeteners like erythritol and artificial sweeteners like sucralose remain popular.

The rise of functional beverages, bundling healthy lifestyle features with sugar reduction, is a key trend to watch. This includes beverages with added energy, alertness, antioxidant, immune, prebiotic, and plant-based benefits.

Indulgences and Sugar Reduction

Sugar-related claims in indulgence products, like bakery, confectionery, desserts, ice creams, and fruit-based snacks, are growing at a moderate pace.

The most common sugar-related claim in indulgences is “sugar-free,” followed by “no added sugar.” The use of erythritol and stevia, often paired together, has facilitated the rise of sugar-free ice creams, as they replicate the sensory qualities of traditionally sweetened counterparts. Sugar free is the hallmark claim for confectionery launches, where alternate sweeteners are used in place of sugar.

The sweetener landscape is evolving, with a growing number of natural sweeteners and sweet fibers being used in indulgences. These include stevia, monk fruit extract, allulose, erythritol, and soluble corn fiber.

Savory Categories and Sugar Reduction

Savory categories are seeing a steady increase in sugar-related claims.

The most prevalent claim in savory categories is “sugar-free,” followed by “added sugar,” “low sugar,” and “reduced sugar.” Ready meals, side dishes, sauces, and seasonings are the key subcategories driving this trend.

While ready meals saw a significant surge in sugar-related claims during the pandemic, likely due to increased home cooking, they remain elevated post-pandemic, suggesting a lasting shift in consumer preferences.

Side dishes are also seeing a rise in sugar-related claims, with consumers seeking healthier options that marry convenience and health.

Sauces and seasonings are another area where sugar reduction is gaining traction, with manufacturers increasingly offering sugar-free or low-sugar options to cater to health-conscious consumers.

Sweet Spreads and Sugar Reduction

Sweet spreads are seeing a stable growth in sugar-related claims, with a notable jump during the pandemic. While the overall growth is modest, the category is seeing a shift towards healthier options.

The most common sugar-related claim in sweet spreads is “no added-sugar,” followed by “low sugar.” Erythritol and sucralose are the main sweeteners used in these products, with a growing presence of tapioca fiber.

What’s Next in Sugar Reduction in North America?

The variety and availability of sweeteners are expanding, giving manufacturers more options to create sugar-like experiences in sugar-reduced products. Precision fermentation is poised to play a significant role, offering a way to produce rare sugars and natural sweeteners that are currently scarce. Sweet fibers are also gaining traction, providing increased fiber content alongside sweetness.

Alongside, consumers are increasingly seeking out products with sugar-related claims across various categories, including savory items. This reflects a growing awareness of the health implications of sugar and a desire to make healthier choices.
The future of sugar reduction is about finding a balance between taste, health, and convenience. As consumers continue to prioritize their well-being, manufacturers will need to innovate and offer products that meet these evolving needs.


This article is based on our report, “Now & Next in Sugar Reduction in US & Canada.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.

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