Allergy Mums / Support for families with allergies

publication date: Jul 7, 2014

Sugar and Marketing

 Let's play a game! Why don't you put these in order of sugar content...say highest to lowest. Then read on...

Due to Molly's reflux we have to watch sugar content. No choice - it sets off her reflux so we need to keep track. This is why I've ended up spending more time staring in disbelief at packaging than I care to think of. I've been horrified by the sugar content of some grocery items. Truely horrified at the amount of sugar that shows up in prepared food. I expect desserts to be full of sugar - who wouldn't? I think it's fair to assume that most people get the fact that jelly is well - geletine, water, flavourings and sugar. Not high nutrition but you do know what you are getting when you pick it up. It's like biscuits and cakes. They are treats. High in sugar. No surprises there.

But what about yoghurt? It has a healthy reputation. People think it's better than other puddings don't they? And marketing departments prey on that belief. The belief that we're eating yoghurt it must be better for us than other desserts. This is where the issue is - marketing departments depend on the assumption that yoghurt is better for us than a pudding. With titles like 'Date and Prune with seeds and cereals' we assume it's healthier. But how do we define healthier? Is it sugar content, or fat, or protein? It's tricky to choose one defining item to label as healthy. What isn't tricky is knowing that yoghurt seems healthier than puddings and that a high sugar content isn't healthy. 

So back to game....How did you do? 

Here they are, from highest to lowest  ranked  in sugar content per 100g.

Muller Yoghurt with Vanilla and Chocolate Balls 18.2g
Sainsbury's Jelly 17.1g
Stapleton's Date and Prune and Date Yoghurt with seeds and cereals 16.3g
Sainsbury's Triffles 16.1g
Waitrose Panna Cotta 13.6g


So there is more sugar in both yoghurts than in Sainsbury's Triffle and Waitrose Panna Cotta.  Sure it's a close call between the Date and Prune yohgurt and the triffles but that's not the point. The point is that 'the man on the Clapham Omnibus' wouldn't expect yoghurt to be anywhere near the puddings in sugar content. The general public will assume that yoghurt is healthier (and lower in sugar) than puddings. The Stapleton's marketing supports the 'healthy' image. You might want to let Muller off the hook a bit, as chocolate balls should give the game away, but there is still an issue. Marketing departments shouldn't be able to get away with packaging that implies something is healthy when it's high in sugar - it's simply misleading. There is a large proportion of the populations that really doesn't cook very much - the marketing of 'convenience' as worked a treat and it's made money for the large food companies.  But there's a price to pay - we don't understand food in the same way as our grandparents did. We are several steps removed from what we eat; and how it's made.

The price of obesity is too high; on both a personal level and a national one; for the interests of marketing departments (and profits) to come before clear and honest packaging.  Most people simply don't have the time, energy or desire to compare sugar levels. I didn't until I had to. So things must change or we will drown in ill health caused by processed food and successful marketing campaigns.

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