The study, titled How much sugar do consumers add to plain yogurts? Insights from a study examining French consumer behavior and self-reported habits, was printed in the journal Appetite. It found that consumers with a higher body mass index tend to over-sweeten their yogurt, whereas consumers at a normal weight do not.
Participants in the study were given a 4.4oz serving of yogurt and were allowed to sweeten it with table sugar, honey or jam. Each container was weighed by researchers before and after use.
On average, consumers in the report said they gave themselves twice as much sugar as they thought they had. There was an average of 13.6g of sugar added to the plain yogurt from each participant in this study.
A single conflict of interest was listed for this report, as Danone Nutricia Resarch financially supported the study and defined the main objective “to measure in a robust and precise way the quantity of sugar that French consumers add to plain yogurts”.
The researchers invited 199 normal and overweight men and women to a series of events surrounding lunch and dinner, with yogurt served afterward. While the average amount of added sugar was 13.6g, more sugar was added when subjects used jam (24.4g) as opposed to caster sugar (11g) or honey (12.1g).
However, when consumers were asked to guess the amount of sugary product they added to their yogurt using a coffee spoon, 45% said they used one spoonful, 32% two spoons, 18% half a spoon and 5% said they used more than three spoonfuls.
“Our findings show that consumers underestimated by half the quantity of sweetener they added,” researchers wrote.
In practice, low-sugar using consumers sought after yogurt products with an average of 6.1g of sugar and high-sugar users looked for products with an average of 19.9g of sugar, according to questionnaires given to participants. Researchers noted that the average commercial yogurt in France contains 10.2g of sugar.
What influences consumer preference?
Researchers observed that consumers with a higher BMI added larger quantities of sugar. However, it was not clear if there is a relationship between BMI and enjoyment of sugar.
In addition, researchers found that consumers from lower “socio-professional” categories may have higher BMI and tend to add more sugar to their yogurt, which they wrote was consistent with data available in France.
“Unexpectedly, the time at which the test was conducted significantly impacted the quantity of sugar the participants added to their yogurts: larger quantities were added at dinner time,” researchers wrote. “By the end of the day, consumers might be more prone to seek stress relief and the rewarding effects associated with sweetness.”
A result researchers called “striking” was an underestimation of the quantity of sugar added by half, on average. Consumers were able to correctly estimate if they had added more sugar than in pre-sweetened, commercial sugar.
“This finding suggests that consumers have a healthy (or healthier) image of their own sweetening behavior,” researchers wrote. “For them, it is worse to eat pre-sweetened commercial yogurts from an energy/sugar intake perspective.”
How much sugar do consumers add to plain yogurts? Insights from a study examining French consumer behavior and self-reported habits
A. Saint-Evea, H. Leclercqb, S. Berthelob, B. Saulnierb, W. Oettgenb, J. Delaruec