Sugar marketing

Sugar is heavily marketed both by sugar producers and the producers of sugary drinks and foods. Apart from direct marketing methods such as messaging on packaging, television ads, advergames, and product placement in setting like blogs, industry has worked to steer coverage of sugar-related health information in popular media, including news media and social media.[1][2][3]

A Redpath Sugar advertisement.

Sugar refiners and manufacturers of sugary foods and drinks have also sought to influence medical research and public health recommendations.[4][5] The results of research on the health effects of sugary food and drink differ significantly, depending on whether the researcher has financial ties to the food and drink industry.[6][7][8] The authors of a 2016 review[6] of funding bias concluded that "This industry seems to be manipulating contemporary scientific processes to create controversy and advance their business interests at the expense of the public's health".


In the early 1950s, sugar was marketed as a healthy substance that would help curb hunger and provide an energy boost.[9] More recent methods are necessarily less direct. Methods of marketing sugary products include:[10]

  • marketing high-sugar versions of established low-sugar brands as flavour variations
  • using words associated with health, such as "healthy", "natural", "naturally sweetened" and "lightly sweetened"
  • using associations with fruit to imply healthiness
  • shill advertising, through front groups and individuals with no obvious connection to the sugar industry, including people presenting themselves as independent scientists
  • targeting women, who make many food purchasing decisions
  • targeting children; below age seven, they have difficulty recognizing persuasive intent, and below the age of twelve, they are more easily distracted from it than adults. Almost a quarter of food industry advertising money is spent on advertising to children.
  • positioning sugary drinks and foods as a freedom-of-choice issue rather than a public health one

Influence on health information and guidelines

Sugar refiners and manufacturers of sugary foods and drinks have sought to influence medical research and public health recommendations,[4][5] with substantial spending documented from the 1960s to 2016.[11][12][13][14] The results of research on the health effects of sugary food and drink differ significantly, depending on whether the researcher has financial ties to the food and drink industry.[6][7][8] The authors of a 2016 review[6] of funding bias concluded that "This industry seems to be manipulating contemporary scientific processes to create controversy and advance their business interests at the expense of the public's health". A 2013 review concluded that "unhealthy commodity industries should have no role in the formation of national or international NCD [non-communicable disease] policy".[15]

There have been similar efforts to steer coverage of sugar-related health information in popular media, including news media and social media.[1][2][3]

The Sugar Research Foundation, a trade association for the sugar industry, conceived, funded, and participated in an influential 1967 medical review. It was called "SRF Funds Project 226", and published as "Dietary Fats, Carbohydrates and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease".[16][11] While this took place in 1965–1967, it was documented in a 2016 JAMA Internal Medicine publication[11] which reviewed industry documents. Among the researchers who put their names to the 1967 review, David Mark Hegsted went on to write national nutrition guidelines, and Fredrick J. Stare was head of Harvard University's nutrition department.[17] Rules surrounding conflicts of interest in academic publishing were laxer then, helping the payment to go undeclared. Taking into account "other recent analyses of sugar industry documents", the 2016 review concludes that such actions were part of a wider industry-sponsored research program in the 1960s and 1970s. It also concludes that "Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry–funded studies".[11]

Immediately afterwards, the same Sugar Research Foundation funded a study comparing sugar-fed and starch-fed rats. "SRF Funds Project 259: Dietary Carbohydrate and Blood Lipids in Germ-Free Rats" was funded from 1967 until 1971, when, after reporting preliminary results to the funders, it did not have its funding renewed. The research was never published.[18][19]

The U.S. National Institute of Dental Research's 1971 National Caries Program was lobbied by the sugar industry, which substantially influenced the types of research the caries program called for. Research on food cariogenicity that could have harmed the sugar industry was omitted from funding priorities. The NIDR's public health task force on caries and an industry task force on caries had almost exactly the same members. The NIDR copied 78% of the industry groups' report into their own, with portions being copied verbatim.[12]

After the WHO recommended cutting sugar consumption to less than 10% of daily energy intake in 1990, the International Life Sciences Institute gained accreditation as a research organization the WHO and FAO. The institute was founded by parties including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Foods. Phillip James, head of the International Obesity Taskforce, considered that this accreditation increased industry influence over world health guidelines.[20]

The development of official European dietary guidelines[21] was influenced by European sugar industry groups, who in 2000 threatened to block the report if a recommendation to limit sugar consumption to less than 10% of daily energy intake were not removed. The medical experts felt forced change the recommendation, to one that sugar should not be eaten more than four times a day.[22]

Industry groups also criticized the evidence behind the World Health Organization 2003 recommended limit on free sugar consumption (again, to less than 10% of daily energy intake).[23] The US sugar industry additionally lobbied the US Congress to cut funding to the WHO.[24][22]

When the WHO updated the recommendations, a decade later in 2013, it commissioned two reviews, and found support for both the earlier recommendation and a new, stricter one, half as high as the old limit.[25] This also met with industry opposition. The WHO began requiring anyone submitting formal comments on the proposal to fill out a conflict-of-interest form.[26]

In 2011, the competing Corn Refiners Association (which makes sugar syrups[lower-alpha 1]) and the Sugar Association became involved in a lawsuit against one another, which continued as of 2015.[28] In the course of this lawsuit, numerous internal documents were made public. These revealed funding of over $10 million to James Rippe for health research and media outreach, and a combined $4 million to Citizens for Health and Center for Consumer Freedom, which publicly opposed one another's views on the healthiness of the rival products without acknowledging their funding (such shilling is legal in the US following the Citizens United ruling).[2][29][27]

In 2015, it was reported that Coca-Cola had paid millions to promote controversial health messages related to sweet drinks, ranging from academic research to social media posts, since 2008. The money went to researchers, dietitians, health experts, research organizations, and professional associations, among others.[1][8]

Following this media attention, Coca-Cola released information on almost $120 million U.S. dollars given out to medical, health and community organizations between 2010 and 2015.[30] These include $29 million for academic research; the largest donation was $7.5 million to Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center.[31] Coca-Cola has now announced that it will "pull back" (reporter's phrasing) from funding health experts and obesity research, in order to improve its transparency.[31]


Sugar is added to ingredients lists under dozens of different names,[32] which, where ingredients lists are in order from largest to smallest quantity, can let sugars appear spuriously lower on the ingredients list.[33]

2016 US nutritional labelling changes

In 2016, the FDA enacted new requirements for US nutrition labels, which include calorie count in larger type and a separate line for added sugars.[34] By July 2018 most manufacturers will need to use the new label.

The new FDA requirements were initially proposed in 2014, they met with strong opposition from sugar and sugary food producers. Industry claimed the new rule lacked any scientific justification.[34] Many specific companies also wrote letters requesting certain products to be exempt from the rule. The head of Ocean Spray Cranberries wrote a letter to the FDA explaining that cranberries without sugar are "unpalatable" and claimed that they needed to be an exception to the bill. The American Beverage Association wanted the measurement on the back of their labels to be in grams instead of teaspoons, saying that teaspoon measurements would carry a negative connotation that misrepresents the factual nature of nutritional information.

The changes had bipartisan support; George W. Bush supported the FDA in its request for the legislation, and, after it was enacted under Barack Obama, said that the government had "got this right".[34][35]

Campaigns to lower sugar consumption

A community campaign in Howard County, Maryland, used the media to influence the attitudes and behaviors about the relationship between sugary drinks and obesity. The "Howard County Unsweetened" campaign used social media, television ads, in-person marketing, and community organizations to encourage people to drink less sugary drinks, and promoted water as a substitute.[36][37] This campaign was modeled after a study done in Portland, Oregon that found community based interventions were successful in influencing consumers likelihood of purchasing sugary drinks in supermarkets. Researchers associated sugary drinks with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes to influence the attitudes of the consumers and the purchasing behaviors of consumers.

Sugar taxes

Sugar taxes have been used to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, often in combination with public information campaigns.

A 2010 study of a sugar taxes in the US found that they decreased consumption of taxed drinks, but increased the consumption of untaxed high-calorie drinks, removing the benefit.[38]

In Mexico, sugary drink consumption dropped after a public health campaign including a sugar tax came in in 2014, and dropped further a year later.[39][40] A 2015 tax in Berkeley, California, had a similar effect,[41][42] although overall grocery spending did not decline.[43] In 2016, the far larger city of Philadelphia brought in a sugar tax to fund children's programs.[44][45]

See also


  1. Note: corn syrups are common in the US, as government market intervention makes them cheaper than granulated sugar;[27] outside the US, it is uncommon


  1. O’Connor, Anahad (9 August 2015). "Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets". Well. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  2. Lipton, Eric (11 February 2014). "Rival Industries Sweet-Talk the Public". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  3. Sifferlin, Alexandra (10 October 2016). "Soda Companies Fund 96 Health Groups In the U.S." Time. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  4. Mozaffarian, Dariush (2 May 2017). "Conflict of Interest and the Role of the Food Industry in Nutrition Research". JAMA. 317 (17): 1755–1756. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.3456. ISSN 0098-7484. PMID 28464165.
  5. Anderson, P.; Miller, D. (11 February 2015). "Commentary: Sweet policies" (PDF). BMJ. 350 (feb10 16): –780–h780. doi:10.1136/bmj.h780. ISSN 1756-1833. PMID 25672619. S2CID 34501758.
  6. Schillinger, Dean; Tran, Jessica; Mangurian, Christina; Kearns, Cristin (20 December 2016). "Do Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Cause Obesity and Diabetes? Industry and the Manufacture of Scientific Controversy" (PDF). Annals of Internal Medicine. 165 (12): 895–897. doi:10.7326/L16-0534. ISSN 0003-4819. PMC 7883900. PMID 27802504. Retrieved 21 March 2018.(original url, paywalled: Author's conflict of interest disclosure forms)
  7. Bes-Rastrollo, Maira; Schulze, Matthias B.; Ruiz-Canela, Miguel; Martinez-Gonzalez, Miguel A. (2013). "Financial conflicts of interest and reporting bias regarding the association between sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review of systematic reviews". PLOS Medicine. 10 (12): –1001578. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001578. PMC 3876974. PMID 24391479.
  8. O’Connor, Anahad (31 October 2016). "Studies Linked to Soda Industry Mask Health Risks". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  9. "8 Insane Vintage Ads That Make Sugar Seem Like A Health Food". Business Insider. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  10. Bailin, Deborah; Goldman, Gretchen; Phartiyal, Pallavi (2014). Sugar-coating science: How the Food Industry Misleads Consumers on Sugar (Report). Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  11. Kearns, C. E.; Schmidt, L. A; Glantz, S. A (2016). "Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research: A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents". JAMA Internal Medicine. 176 (11): 1680–85. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.5394. PMC 5099084. PMID 27617709.
  12. Kearns, Cristin E.; Glantz, Stanton A.; Schmidt, Laura A. (10 March 2015). Simon Capewell (ed.). "Sugar Industry Influence on the Scientific Agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research's 1971 National Caries Program: A Historical Analysis of Internal Documents". PLOS Medicine. 12 (3): –1001798. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001798. ISSN 1549-1676. PMC 4355299. PMID 25756179.
  13. Flint, Stuart W. (1 August 2016). "Are we selling our souls? Novel aspects of the presence in academic conferences of brands linked to ill health". J Epidemiol Community Health. 70 (8): 739–740. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-206586. ISSN 0143-005X. PMID 27009056. S2CID 35094445. Retrieved 25 March 2018.(second issn: 1470-2738)
  14. Aaron, Daniel G.; Siegel, Michael B. (January 2017). "Sponsorship of National Health Organizations by Two Major Soda Companies". American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 52 (1): 20–30. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2016.08.010. ISSN 0749-3797. PMID 27745783.
  15. Moodie, Rob; Stuckler, David; Monteiro, Carlos; Sheron, Nick; Neal, Bruce; Thamarangsi, Thaksaphon; Lincoln, Paul; Casswell, Sally (23 February 2013). "Profits and pandemics: prevention of harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink industries". The Lancet. 381 (9867): 670–679. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)62089-3. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 23410611. S2CID 844739.
  16. original publication referred to, not cited as an information source: McGandy, Robert B.; Hegsted, D.M.; Stare, F. J. (27 July 1967). "Dietary Fats, Carbohydrates and Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease". New England Journal of Medicine. 277 (4): 186–192. doi:10.1056/NEJM196707272770405. ISSN 1533-4406. PMID 5339697.
  17. O'Connor, Anahad (12 September 2016). "How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  18. Kearns, Cristin E.; Apollonio, Dorie; Glantz, Stanton A. (21 November 2017). "Sugar industry sponsorship of germ-free rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia and cancer: An historical analysis of internal documents". PLOS Biology. 15 (11): –2003460. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2003460. ISSN 1545-7885. PMC 5697802. PMID 29161267.
  19. O’Connor, Anahad (21 November 2017). "Sugar Industry Long Downplayed Potential Harms". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  20. Barbara Sibbald (10 June 2003). "Sugar industry sour on WHO report". CMAJ. 168 (12): 1585. PMC 156706. PMID 12796354.
  21. Kafatos, Anthony; Codrington, Caroline A. (2 January 2007). "Nutrition and diet for healthy lifestyles in Europe: the 'Eurodiet' Project". Public Health Nutrition. 2 (3a): 327–328. doi:10.1017/S1368980099000439. PMID 10610068.
  22. Boseley, Sarah (21 April 2003). "Sugar industry threatens to scupper WHO". the Guardian.
  23. Ydstie, John; Marion, Nestle (24 April 2003). "Sugar Industry Takes on the World Health Organization".
  24. Boseley S. (2003). "Political context of the World Health Organization: sugar industry threatens to scupper the WHO". Int J Health Serv. 33 (4): 831–3. doi:10.2190/u0mw-wm82-n5bh-e20c. PMID 14758862. S2CID 7287748.
  25. Mann, J.; Fleck, F. (1 November 2014). "The science behind the sweetness in our diets". Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 92 (11): 780–781. doi:10.2471/BLT.14.031114. ISSN 0042-9686. PMC 4221767. PMID 25378738.
  26. Owens, Brian (11 March 2014). "Storm brewing over WHO sugar proposal". Nature. 507 (7491): 150. Bibcode:2014Natur.507..150O. doi:10.1038/507150a. PMID 24622183.
  27. "Stealth Lobbying Used to Tout Sugar Over Rival Corn Syrup". 18 September 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  28. "Western Sugar Litigation Case History". 9 November 2015. Archived from the original on 9 November 2015.
  29. Hamburger, Tom (12 February 2014). "'Soft lobbying' war between sugar, corn syrup shows new tactics in Washington influence: Inside the secretive war between sugar and corn syrup". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  30. O’Connor, Anahad (22 September 2015). "Coke Discloses Millions in Grants for Health Research and Community Programs". Well. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  31. O'Connor, Anahad (28 September 2015). "Coke Spends Lavishly on Pediatricians and Dietitians". Well. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  32. "Different Words for Sugar on Food Labels". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  33. Boston, 677 Huntington Avenue; Ma 02115 +1495‑1000 (5 August 2013). "Added Sugar in the Diet". The Nutrition Source. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  34. Tavernise, Sabrina (20 May 2016). "F.D.A. Finishes Food Labels for How We Eat Now". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  35. Tavernise, Sabrina (27 February 2014). "New F.D.A. Nutrition Labels Would Make 'Serving Sizes' Reflect Actual Servings". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  36. Schwartz, Marlene B.; Schneider, Glenn E.; Choi, Yoon-Young; Li, Xun; Harris, Jennifer; Andreyeva, Tatiana; Hyary, Maia; Vernick, Nicolette Highsmith; Appel, Lawrence J. (1 May 2017). "Association of a Community Campaign for Better Beverage Choices With Beverage Purchases From Supermarkets". JAMA Internal Medicine. 177 (5): 666–674. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9650. ISSN 2168-6106. PMC 5470385. PMID 28264077.
  37. "Sugary drink sales drop nearly 20 percent after multi-faceted campaign". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  38. Fletcher, Jason M.; Frisvold, David E.; Tefft, Nathan (1 December 2010). "The effects of soft drink taxes on child and adolescent consumption and weight outcomes" (PDF). Journal of Public Economics. 94 (11): 967–974. doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2010.09.005. ISSN 0047-2727.
  39. Colchero, M. Arantxa; Rivera-Dommarco, Juan; Popkin, Barry M.; Ng, Shu Wen (2 August 2017). "In Mexico, Evidence Of Sustained Consumer Response Two Years After Implementing A Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax". Health Affairs. 36 (3): 564–571. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1231. PMC 5442881. PMID 28228484.
  40. O'Connor, Anahad (6 January 2016). "Mexican Soda Tax Followed by Drop in Sugary Drink Sales". Well. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  41. "Berkeley soda tax takes a big gulp out of sugary-drink sales". Reuters. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  42. Silver, Lynn D.; Ng, Shu Wen; Ryan-Ibarra, Suzanne; Taillie, Lindsey Smith; Induni, Marta; Miles, Donna R.; Poti, Jennifer M.; Popkin, Barry M. (18 April 2017). "Changes in prices, sales, consumer spending, and beverage consumption one year after a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley, California, US: A before-and-after study". PLOS Medicine. 14 (4): –1002283. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002283. ISSN 1549-1676. PMC 5395172. PMID 28419108.
  43. Boseley, Sarah (18 April 2017). "First US sugar tax sees soft drink sales fall by almost 10%, study shows". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  44. "Philadelphia becomes first major US city with a soda tax". The Guardian. 16 June 2016. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  45. Boseley, Sarah (18 April 2017). "First US sugar tax sees soft drink sales fall by almost 10%, study shows". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.