We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

'Sugar positioned very well,' official says

'Clean-eating' trend offers opportunity for sugar industry to educate consumers.

2474643298_28d332c5e2_k.jpg
Sugar demand is down, in part due to a decrease in consumption of sugary beverages like soda. (Image via Alexander Kaiser, pooliestudios.com)
We are part of The Trust Project.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Only 30% of U.S. consumers know sugar comes from plants, which indicates both the challenge and opportunity facing the U.S. sugar industry, Courtney Gaine said.

"The consumer environment is very conflicted," though there's reason for optimism, said Gaine, president and CEO of the Sugar Association in Washington, D.C., which represents both the sugar beet and sugar cane industries.

She spoke in Grand Forks on March 10 on the first day of the two-day annual International Sugarbeet Institute. About 3,000 to 4,000 people were expected to attend the Sugarbeet Institute, which draws attendees from across the country and Canada. The latter helps to explain the "International" in the show's name.

There's been a 30% decline in consumption of added sugars in the United States over the past 15 years, with virtually all of the decline due to a drop in soda consumption, Gaine said.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups — the list includes honey and molasses — that are added to foods and beverages when they are processed or prepared..

ADVERTISEMENT

The decline brings overall U.S. caloric consumption of sugar close to the federal guideline of 10% (no more than 10% of a person's total daily calories should come from sugars), a trend that often is not communicated to the public, Gaine said.

In 1998, Americans averaged 54 gallons of soda consumption per person annually. Sixteen years later, that had shrunk to about 38 gallons — roughly a 30% decline, Gaine said.

The sugar industry hasn't felt that decline because soft drinks are sweetened mainly with high-fructose corn syrup, she said.

Currently, soft drinks account for about 39 percent of added sugar consumption, with snacks and sweets accounting for 31 percent. Many other categories account for the remaining 30 percent.

Very little consumption of added sugars come from foods such as dairy, salad dressing and ketchup and other condiments. "You hear so much in the news about how much added sugars you're getting in foods you didn't even know have sugar" — a claim that's contrary to what's actually the case, Gaine said.

"When you really look at it, there's not much added sugars coming from other foods," she said.

Even so, Gaines said, there's still strong pressure on Americans to cut their sugar consumption. For example, a recent New York Times article was headlined, "Make 2020 the Year of Less Sugar."

On the other hand, consumers overall are increasingly interested in so-called "clean eating," Gaine said. "Consumers want to know what the ingredients in their food are. Sugar is positioned very well in the clean-eating trend."

ADVERTISEMENT

Helping consumers to realize that real sugar comes from plants, and thus can be part of the clean-eating trend, will benefit the sugar industry, she said.

"Yes, consumers are looking to reduce their added sugars. But when it comes to sweeteners, I believe consumers are going to be seeking out real sugar," rather than sugar substitutes, she said.

The Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota is a major sugar beet growing region. The annual Sugarbeet Institute rotates between the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, in the northern Red River Valley, and the Fargdome in Fargo, N.D., 75 miles south of Grand Forks.

The area's sugar beet industry wants sugar to be a responsible part of a healthy diet. "And we want to continue being good stewards, good producers," said Mohamed Khan, Extension sugar beet specialist for both North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota and an organizer of the Sugarbeet Institute.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURENORTH DAKOTA
What to read next
South Dakota U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, one of 51 U.S. representatives who signed the Sept. 26 letter, told Agweek in a prepared statement, “China is not our friend, and if a purchase such as the one near the Grand Forks Air Force Base is a strategic move by the Chinese Communist Party to intercept sensitive U.S. military communications, this would cause serious problems."
Wheat farmers across northeast North Dakota got a lot of combining done during the last week in September, said Randy Mehlhoff, North Dakota State University Langdon Research Extension Center director.
Effective stockmanship isn't anything touchy-feely, says Dr. Ron Gill of Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. It's about improving your livestock's production by keeping them calm and safe. And that, says Jerry Yate of West Virginia University, also helps assure consumers that animal agriculture is selling a product that has received proper care.
Volunteer corn is more prevalent in the 2022 growing season and can cause some yield losses, but Bruce Potter, an integrated pest management specialist at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center at Lamberton, Minnesota, said the bigger issues are the insects and diseases that the corn can bring. Of particular concern is the corn rootworm.