Photo of cans of drink on crushed ice

The adverse health impacts of added sugar have been making headlines for decades, and consumers continue to grow increasingly sophisticated in their understanding of and concern about various sweeteners, especially in beverages.

Breakout findings from our upcoming Modern Beverage Culture 2023 study show that 56% of consumers are trying to actively avoid sugar in their beverages, and 35% don’t feel sweeteners are needed in ANY beverage. And while avoidance continues to grow, a unique tension persists: even maligned sweeteners (like high fructose corn syrup) are still consumed relatively often. Consumers want to adopt healthier beverage choices, but there are certain occasions, need states and quantities where various sweeteners may be more permissible.

Consider the Diet Coke effect: while some consumers avoid soda altogether for health reasons, others actively choose the diet version of this iconic beverage for a favorite flavor while also avoiding calories. Natural sweeteners like monk fruit, however, tend to be most accepted when nutrition is a key need state.

Beverages compete across need states more frequently now than in years past. This presents both a unique challenge and opportunity for brands to hit the sweetener sweet spot by aligning product offerings to these evolving consumer perceptions.

Want to know more about when certain sweeteners are accepted — dare we say, even celebrated — and when they are not? We explore consumers’ complex associations with 12 different types of sweeteners in our forthcoming report, Modern Beverage Culture 2023. Layered with deep foundational insights into macro trends, beverage need states and occasion priorities, this study might be one of our most interesting yet.