Sugar-reduction efforts pick up steam ahead of update to Nutrition Facts panel

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Food and beverage brands of all sizes and across categories are scrambling to reduce sugar in their products before FDA regulations mandating they indicate added and total sugar on the Nutrition Facts panel goes into effect in July 2017, according to product development consultancy Imbibe.

“Lower sugar content has been a consumer demand for a long time, but now with the changing Nutrition Facts panel,” which will make “added sugars” a line item, “there will be even greater emphasis on reducing sugar content across product categories,” Laura Dembitzer, marketing director at Imbibe, said Feb. 7 during a webinar on the top ingredient trends of 2017.

To illustrate how widespread sugar reduction has become, Dembitzer pointed to Pepsi’s decision last fall to embrace “a marketing nightmare” to rebrand its existing Pepsi Max line to Pepsi Zero Sugar to “very clearly communicate to consumers that the product has no sugar.”

It also announced last October that by 2025 at least two-thirds of its drinks will have 100 calories or fewer from added sugar per 12 ounces — a move that is similar to the Coca-Cola Co.’s declaration that by 2020 it would offer low – or no -calorie options in every market that its products exist.

In addition, Nestle announced it is patenting a sugar reduction process that will allow it to cut sugar across categories by 40%, which it hopes to use in product development starting in 2018.

Even “product lines where sugar is an essential component of the product identify are being forced to reformulate in order to stay relevant to today’s consumers,” Dembitzer said. She points to Smucker’s offering a low-sugar jam line and re-positioning its products as “naturally sweetened with honey,” which has a better reputation than sugar in many consumers’ eye.

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Article written by Elizabeth Crawford of