Consumer attitudes towards artificial sweeteners are hardening - despite the current anti-sugar campaign, according to a survey.

In a poll of more than 2,000 consumers by Marketing Sciences, 38% said they actively avoided food and drink containing artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, because they thought sweeteners were worse for their health than sugar. Back in 2012, just 31% told Marketing Sciences they avoided artificial sweeteners.

By contrast, attitudes to natural sugar alternatives, such as stevia, were more positive: 40% of respondents said they would buy more diet products if they contained natural, instead of artificial, sweeteners.

“People are becoming increasingly sceptical about anything artificial,” said Marketing Sciences director Anna Herron.

Despite consumers’ reluctance to swap sugar for artificial substances, the survey also suggested that one in three are concerned they consume too much sugar, with concern highest among the young (45% for 18 to 34-year-olds versus 32% for those aged 35 plus). And 30% of people in the survey said they would support a sugar tax.