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Impact of labels like "Sugar-free", "No Added Sugar" and "Unsweetened" on the Beverage industry

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Impact of labels like "Sugar-free", "No Added Sugar" and "Unsweetened" on the Beverage industry

The beverage industry is rapidly growing with the advent of new products, like sugar-controlled fruit juices, vitamin fortified water, energy drinks, anti-aging water, sports drinks, etc. This brings into question one of the most popular sources of calories that may or may not be added to these beverages - Sugar. Food and beverage manufacturers across the globe have started taking efforts to drive the promotion of healthier diets by reducing the amount of sugar, salt and fat content in their products. But that introduces another challenge of retaining the taste. Organizations are trying their best to ensure that the sugar-reduced alternatives are as relishing as the sugar-laden ones. With this come many more beverage industry challenges. We are all well-acquainted with the problem of obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular disease and its global impact. WHO in one of its health report states that the number of people who are obese tripled in the year 2016 from what it was in 1975. This is an alarming fact that pushes people to take food consumption and its effect on health seriously. As a result, people have started counting calories.

What is the difference between beverage industry labels like sugar-free, no added sugar and unsweetened?

The three terms “Sugar-free”, “No added sugar” and “Unsweetened” are often used interchangeably by the consumers when defining beverage quality, which is incorrect:

  • Sugar-free labelled foods or beverages contain less than 0.5 grams sugar per serving or less than 5 calories. They can include naturally-occurring and added sugars. Beverages like artificially sweetened drinks may contain this label after beverage testing.
  • No Added Sugar label means that no sugar is added during processing, packing or delivery(including ingredients that contain sugar). Thus, if no sugar is added manually, then the beverage can contain a label of “No Sugar Added”. But there may be naturally occurring sugars, artificial sugars, and sugar alcohols in the beverage.
  • Unsweetened label means that there is no sugar content in the beverage, neither naturally-occurring, nor artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.

The determination of concentration of sugar in beverages is integral for beverage testing and quality control, followed by nutritional labelling.

Impact of Labels like "Sugar-free", "No Added Sugar" and "Unsweetened" on Consumer Purchase Decision:

Consumers do not compromise with the experience, so taste is a primary criteria for selecting a food product. And if the label gives an expectation of reduced taste, it may have a negative impact on the consumer’s perception about the food product. But if the consumers focus on the numerical information provided on the label before forming an opinion or expectation about the food item, they won’t be expecting a reduced taste, thereby saving the day. But consumers often face an issue in understanding the numbers since one cannot say how a certain amount of ingredient affects the overall nutrition and taste of the food item.

Impact of these Beverage Labels on Consumers’ Beverage Health Perception:

Many studies state that an increase in the intake of sugar levels also means an increase in weight gain or obesity. So, with the rising concerns for and by the consumers, a study was conducted and it was found that:

  • Front-of-Product (FOP) nutritional labels increased the perception of people about how healthy diet soft drinks were but decreased the perception of the nutrition value of fruit juices.
  • The information of added sugar levels plays an important role in consumers’ perceptions of the beverage quality and safety.
  • While the presence of added sugar is considered negative, the absence of added sugar is not considered positive.

This adds up to an increased need for beverage testing, quality control and nutrition labelling by beverage manufacturers.

How beverage marketing labels can affect the production process?

From a production point of view, sugar content labelling is likely to increase costs due to changes in manufacturing practices, an increased need for laboratory analyses, more challenging labelling and marketing processes. Beverage manufacturers should be better informed and be better equipped to react to these kinds of labelling transitions. They should ensure that their claims meet the food industry standard as per the national and international regulations and that the claims are not misleading the consumers. This is because there are a lot of terms that have different implications and may be misinterpreted by the consumers. In the competitive beverage market, consistent beverage testing and corresponding nutrition labelling that gives a clear picture of sugar levels will help consumers from abandoning the brand.

Why should you care about this rising trend as a beverage industry stakeholder?

Beverage manufacturers generally believe that consumers have little interest in understanding beverage nutritional labelling. What beverage brands need to realise is that consumer interest in calories and sugar content has increased over the years. Beverages labelled after beverage testing and quality analysis bridge the gap between the product and the consumer since they are unaware of the production process. These days, consumers are interested in knowing how their food was grown or how the beverage was made and they discuss it while grocery shopping. It is necessary that beverage brands show willingness and ability to adapt to these changes and act proactively.

Certifying the labelling process with the help of third party Beverage Testing and Labelling:

Beverage labels are intended to enable customers to make informed nutritional choices and have an understanding of the beverage specifications like list of ingredients with quantity, best before or use by date, instructions for use, special storage instructions, etc. The label on the product talks on behalf of the manufacturer and it is vital to depict the right information on the label. This makes beverage testing, quality control and labelling more and more important.

Beverage testing mitigates the risks and offers beverage manufacturers and retailers comprehensive solutions to guarantee the quality and safety of their products. TÜV SÜD’s internationally accredited testing and analysis services can be tailored to suit your needs to ensure that your beverage products are fully compliant with all relevant national and international regulations. It offers a wide range of testing services including testing, sampling and inspection, auditing and certification, hygiene audit, label review and regulatory support. TÜV SÜD helps you with beverage testing, quality and safety control along with a quality assurance certification. Find out more about TÜV SÜD’s beverage testing services here.

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