Know your natural sweetener target market

 Targeting “well-beings” might lead to easier sales for manufacturers of foods and beverages with natural sweeteners, and getting “fence-sitters” to make up their minds may increase sales, too, said Steve French, managing partner at the Natural Marketing Institute.

Mr. French divided consumers into five categories when he spoke April 8 at Ingredient Marketplace in Orlando. The well-beings, who are proactive about their health, are likely to use natural sweeteners such as stevia extracts.

“They are leading the charge,” Mr. French said. “They were the first adapters of natural sweeteners and will continue to be the first adapters, and not only sweeteners but all areas of health and wellness.”

The “fence-sitters” want to be healthier, but they need direction and education, he said.

When compared to the three other groups, the well-beings (155) and the fence-sitters (135) had higher indices for agreeing to the statement “I search for all-natural, no-calorie sweeteners rather than artificial sweeteners.” The well-beings (141) and the fence-sitters (156) also had higher indices for agreeing to the statement “I’ve switched from an artificial sweetener to an all-natural, low-calorie/no-calorie sweetener.”

The well-beings and the fence-sitters were more likely to agree with the statement “I typically watch the sugar content in my diet.” While well-beings make up 20% of the U.S. population, they made up 28% of the group that agreed with the statement. While fence-sitters make up 25% of the population, they made up 27% of the group that agreed with the statement.

The “food actives,” “magic bullets” and “eat, drink and be merrys” are the other three groups. The food actives are into mainstream health and make up about 16% of the population. The magic bullets seek convenient ways to deal with health, including supplements and prescription drugs. They make up about 21% of the population. The eat, drink and be merrys are the least health active group and make up about 18% of the population.

Mr. French also spoke about stevia, high-fructose corn syrup, added sugars and aspartame.

Seventeen per cent of American adults in 2014 said they regularly used stevia, which was the same percentage as sucralose, according to research from the N.M.I., which is based in Harleysville, Pa. Stevia had a compound annual growth rate of 30% from 2007 to 2013, Mr. French said.

Only 9% of consumers said they use H.F.C.S.

“They would obviously be mistaken if they were to read the labels on the back of the beverage products,” Mr. French said.

Some consumers are more likely to check ingredient lists for H.F.C.S.

“Others don’t even realize that high-fructose corn syrup is part of a product that they have been using for perhaps 20 years,” Mr. French said.

Research from the N.M.I. showed the percentage of Americans agreeing with the statement “I prefer foods with no sugars added” increased to 52% in 2014 from 40% in 2005.

Consumers now are more likely to choose an item promoted for having no added sugar.

“Even though it may be a high caloric beverage, there is no added sugar,” Mr. French said.

He said consumer perception of aspartame has hurt Diet Coke sales. The brand recently dropped to the No. 3 soft drink brand from the No. 2 brand “because consumers don’t want that aspartame,” Mr. French said.