Forget fat, discount calories: Sugar seen as “biggest food threat”

New research from market analyst Mintel, has shown that Britons are more concerned about sugar than fat and calories.

Sugar has increasing become public enemy number one for healthy eaters and health campaigners in the UK, trumping calories and fat.

Mintel’s research, published this week, revealed that 97% of Brits try to eat healthily at least some of the time, and, of this group, over half (54%) look for low sugar content when shopping for healthy foods, compared to 50% who look for low fat content.

It said that well over a third (37%) of Brits don’t know how many calories they consume on a typical day, and added that low calorie content is low on the list of factors deemed important when looking for healthy foods.

In comparison, in 2012 low fat was considered the most important health claim (52%) for healthy food shoppers, when compared to low sugar (43%).

While sugar tops the list of concerns for those who try to eat healthily, contributing to your five-a-day (52%), low salt content (47%) and low saturated fat content (46%) are also leading factors.

Emma Clifford, senior food analyst at Mintel, said: “Historically fat has been the ‘food villain’ and the macronutrient that people have been most wary of, relating to its intuitive link to body fat. However, the tables have now turned, and low sugar has taken the lead over low fat in terms of perceived importance for healthy food, indicating consumers’ increased vigilance about their intake of sugar.”

Despite awareness that certain ingredients can be bad for health, a balanced diet remains key for consumers. Indeed, two thirds (66%) of Brits agree that unhealthy treats are fine as part of an healthy diet, and half (49%) agree that there is no need for ‘light’ or ‘diet’ products in a balanced diet.

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