What's Motivating Consumers in Asia to Reduce Sugar Intake?

Thursday, June 1st, 2023

New global consumer research from Kerry reveals that consumers are concerned about the long-term negative effects of high sugar intake. Health, with a focus on improving immunity, gut health and mental wellness, are primary reasons why consumers are taking steps to cut back on how much sugar they consume.


Southeast Asia on High Sugar Intake

86% of respondents are concerned about over-consumption of sugar leading to diabetes

More than 70% want to cut their sugar intake to enjoy quality of life

62% are doing so to avoid potential health issues

82% of global consumers agree that reduced sugar products are healthier.


The findings were revealed in Kerry’s worldwide Sensibly Sweet survey conducted among more than 12,000 consumers across 24 countries including Europe, North America, Australia, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and South Africa.

Kerry’s study in Southeast Asia revealed three consumer profiles around sugar and sweetness perception: the Reduced Sugar Seeker, Zero Sugar Advocates, and the Taste Chaser. At 47%, the Reduced Sugar Seeker makes up the largest consumer segment, citing a healthier lifestyle as their key motivation in cutting back on sugar.


The Taste Chaser | Second largest consumer segment in Southeast Asia

  • Prefer not to consume reduced or zero sugar products to avoid the negative health effects of artificial sweeteners
  • Cite poor taste and sensorial experience that often come with it consuming artificial sweeteners
  • Preference to consume sugar in moderation
  • Open to reduced or low-sugar products, particularly in indulgent categories (ice cream, coffee beverages) if they taste good


Sugar has long been at the centre of the taste-versus-nutrition debate. However, post-pandemic perceptions are reframing the way people think about sweetened food and drinks, ultimately changing their relationship with sugar. A large majority of respondents in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, prefer natural sweeteners. Those who do not like artificial sweeteners say they are bad for health and have harmful side effects. Most expressed a desire for plant-derived sweeteners in the future. Besides honey and sugar, there is high preference for stevia, followed by jaggery, palm sugar and fructose.


Related: WHO Advises Not to Use Artificial Sweeteners for Weight Control


Commenting on the findings, Young Kim, Vice President of Taste, Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, said: “Our research found that a balanced taste between sweet, salty and spicy is important for Southeast Asian consumers. Amidst growing consumer health consciousness and governments regulating the reduction of sugar content in foods and beverages, the ability to reduce sugar content in a product while still delivering the sweetness impact and full body mouthfeel that sugar offers, is key to managing sweetness sensibly in new food and beverage formulations.”


Soumya Nair, Global Consumer Research & Insights Director at Kerry added: “Our latest Kerry research confirms a precarious new balance around sweetness. Although consumers have positive emotions about it, one thing remained universal in the survey: the need for healthier alternatives and sugar-reduction solutions. Health and taste are crucial factors when consumers consider low and reduced sugar alternatives. Currently, taste is a barrier but this gap creates a clear opportunity for brands to meet consumer demand for more healthier options that offer the same flavour experience they enjoy.”


Insights from the Sensibly Sweet research can be found here.


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