The “demonisation” of sugar has had a massive impact on purchasing decision of consumers, according to a new study by Mintel. It found nearly half (46%) of Brits had taken at least one course of action to monitor or reduce their sugar intake in the past year.

Over a quarter (27%) said they have checked food labels for sugar content more often than they did 12 months ago. Meanwhile, 26% said they had limited the amount of sugar in their diet and 25% that they have cooked from scratch to control sugar intake more often over the same period.

“Consumers’ attention to sugar has undoubtedly been heightened by the high-profile sugar debate during 2014 which has acted to demonise this ingredient,” said Emma Clifford, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel

“The fact that media coverage on sugar looks to have had a tangible impact on many consumers’ dietary habits is significant. It indicates the importance for companies or products to avoid being “named and shamed” in the media for their high sugar content and the potential damage this could do. It also suggests that being shown in a positive light in the media, for example for leading the way with reformulations using natural sweeteners, could help to boost positive perceptions and sales.”

Weight management was the most common reason cited by people who limit their sugar intake (56%), followed by future health concerns (42%). Some 43% of the population claimed to have noticed an increase in media coverage on “how sugar affects your health”, with these 62% of those notably more likely to have taken action to cut down on how much sugar they eat.,

“Consumers are expecting the food industry to respond, which shows that there are plenty of opportunities for companies to really make themselves stand out on this front,” added Clifford. “ However, companies have also got to be wary of a potential consumer backlash against reformulations, if taste is seen to be sacrificed. Gradual changes to products to improve their health credentials look to be needed, or to offer ‘light’ versions in addition to standard versions.”