SEOUL, March 23 (Korea Bizwire) – Food companies have started to cut down the sugar levels in their products to match consumer awareness of the substance blamed for rising obesity, industry officials said Wednesday, in step with government moves to reduce its intake through state-level measures.
According to LinkAztec, a market research company, the business-to-consumer (B2C) sugar market shrank nearly 30 percent over the past two years, tallied at 143.9 billion won (US$124.3 million) last year compared to 204.4 billion won in 2013. Demand for more natural sugar substitutes, mostly based on xylose, has increased, its market expanding to 10.5 billion won from 5.9 billion in the same period.’
Beverage companies have acted by lowering the sugar levels in their products. Korea Yakult Co., synonymous with its sweet dairy drink, launched an independent campaign in August 2014 to halve the sugar content in its fermented milk products and marketed Yakult Light. The new product is selling three times more than the original drink, according to the company.
“Lowering the sugar content in foods is a worldwide move,” Kim Dong-joo, head of marketing at Korea Yakult, said. “Fermented milk products are regarded as health foods, so the market for them is more sensitive. Low-sugar products are earning popularity not just in the U.S. but in Europe and Asia as well.”
Dairy food companies like Maeil Dairies Industry Co. and Namyang Dairy Product Co. have cut back on the sugar level in their products by about 30 percent from spring last year. Officials at Coca Cola said they are considering bringing in Coca-Cola Lite, the lower calorie “green” version of the soft drink, into South Korea.
While the B2C market and corporate efforts are in lockstep to bring down sugar consumption, separate figures measuring the business-to-business (B2B) market indicate that they aren’t making enough impact. Industry statistics put local sugar production at approximately 900,000 tons, which hasn’t fluctuated much, suggesting that household consumption may have dropped but overall use of sugar hasn’t actually decreased. The B2C portion of the sugar market stops at about 7 percent of the total, according to industry estimates.
“Use of substitute sweeteners is growing from worries about sugar, but compared to the conventional sugar market, the market for substitutes is still paltry,” an official at leading foods company CJ CheilJedang said.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said over the weekend that it will draw up a comprehensive plan within this month that sets goals for sugar intake reduction. The plan includes naming foods that need to lower the sugar level and a public awareness campaign to educate how to lessen sugar in people’s daily diet, the ministry said.