South African consumers are keeping their sugar intake in check, opting for healthier options over sugary drinks, according to findings from a recent survey that investigated how people perceive their intake of sugar.

The findings also indicate that South Africans are very aware of ‘the global sugar issue’ and claim to take measures to reduce their intake. They know that ‘sugar free’ isn’t necessarily the holy grail to healthy, and they understand the potential use of sugar substitutes.

Interestingly, the research highlighted that black female consumers, aged 24-34, demonstrate the highest awareness of sugar consumption compared to other demographics, with these consumers taking measures to reduce sugar by choosing drinks they perceive to be lower in sugar content, such as smoothies, ‘cinos and crushes.

“South African consumers are taking stock of the amount of sugar in their diets and are actively searching for healthier beverage options,” says Chrissy Beedle, Executive Manager of Research and Product Development at Slo-Jo. “With the global sugar shortage as well as the recent sugar taxes implemented in South Africa, Slo-Jo has developed a range sugar-free and no-added-sugar product for health-conscious consumers.”

The survey, conducted by MullenLowe Oil and commissioned by South Africa’s leading taste architects, Slo-Jo, provides insight into consumers’ perceptions around sugar and its effect on health, well-being and weight control, as well as the role that taste plays in beverage choice. The survey also sheds light on the types of non-alcoholic drinks preferred by the sugar conscious consumer.

Slo-Jo shares eight insights from the research below:


How do South Africans select drinks based on sugar perception?

When asked about their preference among non-alcoholic drinks, 24% of the respondents prefer sugar free, while 15% prefer no sugar added.

Some other options include:

  • Light: 18%
  • Low in sugar: 15%
  • Caffeine Free: 15%
  • Diet: 9%
  • Aspartame free: 8%


SA isn’t fooled by the term, ‘Sugar Free’.

Only one in three people believe that sugar-free means that the drink contains no sugar, while almost 50% recognise the potential use of a sugar substitute, such as artificial sweeteners.

What does “No sugar added” mean to us?

Two thirds of respondents understood that the term ‘no sugar added’ meant the only sugar in the product comes from existing sugars in the raw ingredients. The survey also found that men generally affiliate issues of sugar with health, while women associate sugar with weight gain.

Other ‘no sugar added’ perceptions include:

  • 14% believe the product includes no sugar at all
  • 17% understood the product contains no sugar, but may contain artificial sweeteners
  • 7% think the products contains some sugar


Sugar free vs. no sugar added.

According to the survey, there is no clear winner – 46% of respondents prefer sugar free, while 41% prefer no sugar added. Interestingly, however, females show an indicative preference for drinks that contain no added sugar.


Are we reading labels for sugar content?

Top end consumers claim to have a heightened awareness of the sugar content in their drinks, taking the initiative to read labels and understand what they are putting into their bodies.

The results indicate the following split:

  • 32% always check labels.
  • 27% indicate they read labels sometimes and when information is available.
  • 18% hardly ever check.
  • 16% say “sometimes – when I remember”.
  • 6% never check sugar content on product labels.


Sugar only counts at home.

While 32% of respondents said they read labels on drink products to check sugar content, an impressive 82% said they never enquire about the sugar content of drinks when out at a restaurant.


It’s all about taste, sweetie.

The survey also showed that people are drawn to smoothies, ‘cinos and crushers over other drink options, indicating that taste trumps health considerations, with 69% of respondents saying that flavour most influences their decisions when choosing a drink.


Smoothies are a girl’s best friend.

Women, in particular, opt for smoothies over fizzy drinks. Over a third of female respondents believe smoothies contain less sugar than the fizzy alternative.

“Consumers are becoming more health conscious and are actively reading labels to find out what ingredients their favourite drinks contain,” says Beedle. “People also want to know that the products they purchase are manufactured responsibly, using non-commercial, high quality ingredients.

“While taste is a major deciding factor, people want to be able to have the best of both worlds – a delicious and guilt-free beverage. This is why we’ve developed products like our imfamous Coffee Freezo without any added sugar, that offer a tasty, guilt-free drink experience.”

Slo-Jo’s no-sugar-added range of powders is available in Chocolate Decadence and Chai flavours, which can be made into a hot drink or cold crush, as well as Coffee Freezo which works best as a crush.

For a sugar-free option, ask for Slo-Jo’s CRUSH options, or peach and lemon-flavoured ice teas for a guilt-free and delicious treat.