The sugar-laden diet of Mexicans is putting their health in jeopardy, according to a recent survey, but concerns over taste are hindering the uptake of reduced sugar products.

The study in Mexico found that over three quarters of those questioned thought that Mexicans consumed too much sugar and a similar number were concerned about the health implications of excessive sugar intake. While aware of the dangers however, the study also indicated that sugar-substituted products are only accepted if they taste the same as, or better than, the original.

The study was conducted by the market research company BIMSA, which conducted a door to door survey in October 2001 of 553 households in the high to mid-range income brackets in in Mexico’s three largest cities: Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara.

A massive 81% agreed with the statement “I think Mexicans consume too much sugar”, 69% regarded high levels of sugar consumption as prejudicial to health and 60% expressed concerns about the amount of sugar they themselves include in their daily diet.

On a positive note, almost 90% of those surveyed are making a conscious effort to control their sugar consumption, an example being the increasing consumption of ‘light’ or ‘reduced calorie’ drinks. But while accepting the benefits of artificial sweeteners in reduced sugar products, 82% said that their acceptance is conditional on the taste profile of the product in question being the same as, or an improvement on, the sugar-sweetened original.

“The findings of this study highlight a trend that has long been apparent in consumer behaviour, namely the contradiction between opinion and purchasing decisions;” said Eduardo Molina at Nutrition Specialties Mexico, the local arm of Frankfurt, Germany-based food ingredients company Nutrinova, who commissioned the survey. “While consumers welcome the concept of the ‘reduced sugar’ alternative, if the product doesn’t meet their taste expectations, it will not achieve acceptance.

“Manufacturers need to overcome this obstacle either by making regular products healthier, or reduced sugar and light products tastier.”