Is sugar killing our children?

It’s a controversial headline but one you’ll have seen splashed across the press in the last few days. 

This week the World Health Organization advised that we should all halve our daily sugar consumption in order to tackle the growing obesity crisis and other health problems such as tooth decay. 

Much of the advice given is sensible – cut down on fizzy drinks and processed meals which contain hidden sugars. But some of it is hugely confusing for parents – fruit juice contains lots of natural sugar. So should we be ditching this in favour of drinks with artificial sweeteners? There’s plenty of evidence that these aren’t particularly good for children either.  What this means is there’s a lot of confused consumers out there and that’s bad news for brands. 
So we went to our base of 10,000 mums and asked them what they think about sugar…
Overall findings from the survey:
  •  Mums are concerned about sugar in their children’s diet but they tend to worry more about hidden sugars in every day products rather than treats and cakes. They know cakes and sweets contain sugar and tend to position them as a treat with their children. They were more concerned about certain ‘healthy’ products that contain too much sugar i.e. cereal, yoghurt or drinks.
  • Mums know fizzy drinks contain too much sugar. Many try and limit but are annoyed about the hidden sugars in cordial based drinks that they buy for their children.
  • Many mums said they know they should be more conscious of checking sugar content.
  • Mums were less worried about natural sugars in fruit. They don’t want to stop their children eating fruit as the health benefits outweigh the downsides of sugar.
  • Many mums said that artificial sweeteners (Aspartame mentioned) are just as bad, if not worse.      Many mums choose ‘real’ sugar products over ones that contain artificial sweeteners. They don’t want products laden with unnatural ingredients.
  • Many mums acknowledged that consequence of too much sugar could be damage to their child’s teeth.

% of mums concerned about sugar content when buying the following products for their child:
Fizzy drinks – 83%
Cordial drinks – 70%
Cereal – 64%
Cakes/Biscuits – 55%
Fruit juice (100% natural) – 51%
Yoghurt 45%
Fruit 15%
For brands it’s about taking this information and helping mums find a way past the shocking headlines so they can make informed decisions.
MumPanel top 4 tips:
  1. Consider evidence that mums understand – a teaspoon level measure per product shown on products. Distinguish between ‘natural’ sugars and ‘added’ sugars.
  2. Fruit is good for you even if it does contain sugar. Let’s help parents understand why the health benefits of fruit outweigh the sugar content.
  3. Show parents the whole picture. Let’s help parents educate themselves and inform their children. It is an opportunity for brands to show responsibility and to educate.
  4. Many parents would not like products to replace hidden sugar with hidden sweeteners. If brands can make products more natural and contain less ‘added’ sugar that would help.

 What our mums said…
  • Some foods are artificially sweetened too much and have far too much variety of different sugars than are really needed
  • I am concerned about the things they consume throughout the day not the one off snacks or treat
  • We all consume too much and it is so hidden in some products
  • Like to think healthier options are lower in sugar. For treats I’m less concerned as they are that – treats
  • I try to buy juices that aren’t made from concentrate or the type with water, equally I prefer obvious full sugar products than ones full of artificial sweetener
  • Do not want to be consuming too many hidden sugars. I think there is too much sugar in foods and it is quite hard to follow a low sugar diet with minimum fuss
  • I always look at the sugar levels and the additives. I don’t like to buy anything containing aspartame
  • I know that fruit has natural sugars in it, and I choose organic as often as possible, so as a natural product haven’t got any concerns, and I would expect the fruit juice to be the same. I don’t like the way sugar products are advertised and aimed at children. Also I don’t like the way they advertise it as sugar free but replace the sugar with artificial products that are more harming than sugar
  • Some cereals and soft drinks have far too much sugar in them. Yogurts also have too much sugar. They are not supposed to be sweet!
  • I would rather they ate and drank something than nothing
  • I was shocked when I recently found out that fruit juice contains more sugar than a fizzy drink. I tend only to buy no sugar cordials now
  • My daughter eats a very healthy diets so she can afford to have sweet treats without us counting the sugar contents, although I prefer cereal to be sugar and additive free as it is one of the most important meals of the day and needs to be healthy
  • We want to make sure the kids have a healthy and balanced diet, of course we allow treats but we are careful. Plus I don’t want them to have rotten teeth either!
  • I think people should be educated properly on healthy eating and packaging be made clearer

*Stats and findings taken from MumPanel survey (700 responses) conducted on 5th March 2014.

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