By Brian Martell
By Brian Martell
Jan. 27, 2014 – Brian Martell comments on the amount of sugar that is in products, suggesting that the industry take action now to try and reduce the sugar content before the government mandates it.
Jan. 27, 2014 – Researchers have been busy studying global obesity, a phenomenon that can be traced back to the late 1970s. Perhaps the most vocal and persuasive crusader of this troubling health issue is Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of California, whose prime suspect is sugar.
However, for the past 40 years, the trend in the food industry has been to remove fat from food.
Fat is one of the three essential macronutrients to a healthy diet (along with protein and carbohydrates) and was targeted as the reason people were getting “fat”. Not long after that connection was made, a plethora of reduced fat or fat-free products started to populate store shelves, extolling the virtues of a low-fat diet.
Books were written on the topic and health associations got on board. There was a challenge to the food industry, however, underlined by one simple point: if fat is removed from food, it won’t taste good and people won’t buy it. The solution, which came with several fiscal side benefits, was to replace fat with sugar – lots of it. Sugar is less expensive than fat (about half of the cost).
By reducing the amount of fat in foods and increasing the amount of sugar (yogurt is a good example) producers reduced their costs and increased their sales. Marketing initiatives kicked in using authoritative spokespeople to tell consumers that eating too much fat would lead to various illnesses and that a fat-free diet was much healthier.
So what happened? The Western world actually got fatter and incidences of Type 2 diabetes shot through the roof. Now Dr. Lustig is sounding the alarm of a pending health epidemic.
So far, some European nations have taken action and introduced punitive taxes on foods with a high concentration of sugar. It may not be long until sugar is treated as a restricted substance with Health Canada or the FDA in the U.S. Sugar was recently documented in a National Geographic cover story, suggesting its addictive force to be equal or greater than that of alcohol, tobacco or cocaine.
I have two revelations to make – instant cappuccinos and hot chocolates have a lot of sugar in them and I’m addicted to sugar (the euphemism would be that I have a sweet tooth). On the first revelation, a typical 16-ounce serving of French Vanilla Cappuccino has about 24g of sugar in it. In comparison to other sweet beverages this is actually quite low (Orange Crush for example has 48g in a 12 ounce can). With that said, instant cappuccinos still have a considerable amount of sugar – one that hits our palate’s sweet spot.
Products with elevated amounts of sugar will increasingly be seen as contributing to our health care costs, thus demanding higher taxes – governments do not stay in power by raising taxes. If sugar is the smoking gun in our declining collective health and spiraling medical costs then it will only be a matter of time before the irresistible force of the ballot box overtakes the power of sugary food lobbyists.
This was the story of the once mighty tobacco industry and it will be the story of sugar. Ideally, all Canadians should be allowed to make decisions for themselves and reap the rewards or suffer the consequences, including our choices in lifestyle.
The reality we live is quite different and it is that reality we have to contend with. The future will be a combination of consumer push back of sugar content in products (just as people voluntarily gave up smoking before it became expensive) along with supplemental government taxes levied against sugar producers or confectioners as a means of curbing demand and funding awareness programs.
Armed with this knowledge it is up to us to consider alternatives to our current product offerings and how we will market them in advance of what the future brings.
Brian Martell works at Heritage Coffee as vice-president of sales and has 21 years of industry experience. Brian has also been the recipient of three prestigious awards: the Don Storey, Stuart Daw, and the Albert DeNovelus Customer Service awards. Questions, comments, feedback, start a dialogue? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.