Creative food packaging is finding added sugars’ sweet spot

Jun 29, 2016

It came as something of a surprise to the UK’s home cooks when Mars recently announced that its brand Dolmio – one of the leading Italian-inspired sauce ranges on the market – should only be consumed once a week.


Dolmio’s Italian sauces have plenty of ‘zucchero’

Despite promoting itself as a quick fix for family meal times and even equal to a portion of fruit and vegetables, Dolmio now considers its products too high in salt, sugar and fat for everyday consumption.

While the public are becoming more aware of their fat and salt intake, Mars’ announcement surprised many who remained unaware of just how much sugar is added to our food. The spotlight is now being shone on other brands whose savoury offerings are not so sweet when it comes to nutritional transparency. The amount of sugar contained within sauces and condiments can often be comparable to, or even higher than, those in ice-cream and cookies.


Sharwood’s sugar and spice

The recommended maximum daily intake of added sugars for a person over the age of 11 is 30 grams. Dolmio’s Original Tomato Sauce for Lasagne has more than 6 grams of sugar per portion. This pales in comparison to the 34 grams of sugar found in Sharwood’s Hoisin Marinade Sauce and the 38 grams hiding in Tesco’s Finest tomato ketchup. Even those opting for a healthy fruit smoothie may feel misled; there’s 26g of sugar in a glass of Innocent’s strawberry and banana drink.

For Mars to make its announcement is “hugely unusual” but “very imaginative”, said the UK’s National Obesity Forum. As Dolmio sets about amending its packaging to better convey the sugar content, it remains to be seen whether its imagination will stretch to a complete packaging redesign. If so, Dolmio will be in good – if limited – company.

At GDR, we have seen some interesting approaches by brands addressing sugar content and helping consumers make healthier, more informed, choices.

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Zeo keeps it simple

It can be hard to visualise sugar in grams. This is why Colgate’s Sugar Receipt in-store campaign that showed food’s sugar content as sugar cubes was so impactful. Soft drink Zeo has opted for teaspoons as a visual aid. The low-sugar premium soft drink has a bottleneck label that reads: “I’m only 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving.” Simple and effective. 

Sparkling water drink Ugly is free from sugar, sweeteners and artificial ingredients. The playful tone of voice and bright packaging was designed by London agency Identica. “To bring to life the product truth of water, with a hint of natural flavour, and nothing else, we designed a vibrant water background with abstract fruit punching through,” writes Identica on its website. “With a cap cover saying ‘Because you’re sweet enough already!’ consumers can be reminded of what makes Ugly a better choice.”

Perhaps one of the most innovative approaches to communicating sugar content is by French supermarket Intermarché. In a move to help wean sweet-toothed consumers off sugar-packed desserts, Intermarché launched a pack of six chocolate puddings – each one having less sugar than the last. By the sixth dessert, the consumer is eating 50% less sugar than the original dessert and, in theory, will not be able to taste the difference.


Intermarche’s six-step detox program

Intermarche’s six-step detox program

“Intermarché, in collaboration with creative agency Marcel, decided to launch a new concept under the brand Sugar Detox: a range of products with individual portions and cup after cup declining sugar rate,” said a Marcel spokesperson. This is “a pioneer experience that aims to prove that we can easily accept a sugar reduction. Step by step, we discover a less sweet recipe, but not a less tasty one.”

Sugar reduction is a major trend in the food industry. Not only are added sugars now impacting brands’ bottom line – the UK recently introduced a sugar tax on fizzy drinks – but sugar is rapidly becoming public enemy no. 1. The number of people searching for low sugar diets on Google is expected to overtake those searching for low fat diets this year. A survey by Euromonitor found 42% of people check labels for limited or no added sugar.

In what First Lady Michelle Obama has called a “landmark achievement,” nutritional labels in the US will now include a separate line for information on added sugars. It is the first major update to the US “Nutrition Facts” labels in over 20 years and will inform consumers of not only how much sugar in the product comes naturally from fruit, for example, but also just how much has been added by the manufacturer during processing.

Brands that are able to reduce added sugar content will certainly win favour from consumers. However, as in the case of Dolmio, there is much to be said for those brands that are upfront about what is in their products and are able to communicate this effectively – and creatively – on the supermarket shelf. 

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