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8 Sep 2017

We’re getting wiser about sugar

The way people think about food is changing, and one of the best resources we have to see how is the Bord Bia survey, which it's put out every couple of years since 2001.

This year’s report has found that the perception of 'low fat' as a healthy choice is in decline. In 2006, 71% of people believed that the 'low fat' label meant a product was healthy, but that’s dropped down to 58% today.

A low fat label by law means a food contains less than 5% fat, but controversially these labels have been associated with higher sugar content, and one report found that low fat foods contain an average of 20% more sugar than their full fat equivalents.

Consuming more sugar can increase the risk of weight gain and diabetes, and it’s also been linked to increased rates of tooth decay. According to the Bord Bia survey, 59% of consumers now check what they are buying for sugar content, and 71% of parents are conscious of their children’s sugar intake.

That suggests that more parents may be opting to give their children water at meal times and for refreshments, saving fruit juice and fizzy drinks for special occasions.

Sugary drinks can cause decay very early on, with bottle rot happening when drinks like juice or formula cling to a baby's teeth. Giving babies water in a bottle during a nap and bedtime is a reliable way to avoid the risk of decay so early.

Bord Bia hopes that its survey will exert pressure on food manufacturers to change their products in line with what consumers want, which seems to be less sugar.

Grace Binchy, consumer insight manager at Bord Bia, said: "This level of knowledge and consumer understanding allows our food and drink producers, selling at home and abroad, to make well informed business decisions that serve customers' needs better.

"For instance, we know that nearly 70% of those surveyed want help to eat well. With this in mind, manufacturers should consider how they can help people to do just that, as well as digest nutritional labelling, create convenience in their lives, and address changing perceptions around sustainability."

The survey also found that we like the idea of cooking from scratch more than ever, but don’t because there’s no time. Only 35% of respondents said they could produce "a good Sunday roast with all the trimmings", down from 41% two years ago.

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