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Non-nutritive sweeteners: consumer awareness and inclusion in food and beverage products in South Africa

Shakun Naicker
Ashika Naicker
Evonne Singh


Background: The widespread use of non-nutritive sweeteners (NNSs) in the food and beverage industry has become a global trend.

Objective: A study was undertaken to assess the level of awareness of South Africans of NNSs and to create a scientific product database  of NNSs in a sample of packaged products in South Africa.

Design: A cross-sectional survey design was chosen.

Setting: The study was  carried out online in South Africa.

Subjects: The study participants were South African adults (n = 388).

Outcome measures: A consumer  awareness survey on NNSs and a scientific product database were created to identify products formulated with NNSs.

Results:  A large proportion of participants were unfamiliar with most NNSs by name; however, a significant 61% (n = 238) (p < 0.001) of  participants were most aware of xylitol, and 45% (n = 174) were aware of aspartame. Despite this, a significant number of participants  consumed products labelled ‘sugar-free’ and/or ‘diet’ (p < 0.001). Participants were aware of health concerns and health benefits  associated with the consumption of NNSs. A scientific product database consisting of 419 products containing NNSs was created during  the study. A combination of NNSs was used in the formulations of 65% (n = 273) of the products, while 35% (n = 146) of the products were  formulated with a single NNS.

Conclusion: The outcome of this research highlights key consumer insights into NNSs and their  widespread use in product formulations in South Africa. The outcome of this study shows the need for continuous monitoring of the  effects of the increasing use of NNSs in product formulation and their impact on health and diet. Consumer education would advance consumer awareness of NNSs. 

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eISSN: 2221-1268
print ISSN: 1607-0658