Americans (and definitely healthy food marketing) know on some level that too much sugar is “bad” for them, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is finally taking a harder line. They are now saying that added sugar not only makes you fat, but also may be killing you by increasing your risk of death from heart disease. In spite of all the money spent on lobbying, these newly released dietary guidelines finally reflect the appropriate amounts of added sugar for a healthy diet. The Department of Health and Human Services wrote, “ Americans should be encouraged to consume less than 10 percent of calories from added sugars”.

This is the first study that used a nationally representative sample to look at the total amount of added sugar and its association to cardiovascular disease death. Of the more than 31,000 people that participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the results are pretty staggering. Most adults, 71%, consume 10% or more of daily calories from added sugars, and about 10% of adults consume 25% or more of daily calories from added sugars.

The study also found that people who consumed more than 21% of daily calories from added sugar had double the risk of death from heart disease as those who consumed less than 10% of calories from added sugars. And people who consumed seven or more servings a week of sugar-sweetened beverages were at 29% higher risk of death from heart disease than those who consumed one serving or less. Pretty bad news for brands with a lot of added sugar.

The beverage category will be the most obviously affected. For beloved brands already in rapid decline like Coke and Pepsi, this could be a death sentence.

But the news couldn’t be better for healthy food marketing and some up and coming beverage brands like Zevia and Hint Water. Zevia, a soda brand that is sweetened with Stevia, comes in fun flavors like ginger root beer and grapefruit citrus . Hint Water is a delicious (in my opinion) unsweetened flavored water, also with no calories or added sugar. And they are just the tip of the iceberg in the good-for-you beverage offerings. According to the Transparency Market Research report, the global flavored and functional water market was valued at $17.2 billion in 2012 and is expected to reach an estimated value of $36.7 billion in 2019. That means this fast growing category will more than double in that 7-year period.

The other big category that’s likely to either feel the pain or seize the day is the snack category. There’s already a war going on in yogurt between the Greek and old-school brands like Chobani, Fage and Yoplait. But this “added sugar” conversation will surely add complexity. The winners when it comes to this particular conversation are likely to be two of my very favorite brands, Siggi’s and Blue Hill! Stay tuned for more on that.

Bottom line, brands that can figure out how to taste good and also say goodbye to added sugar will probably be saying hello to many, many new consumers.  That’s the beauty of healthy food marketing.


According to the CDC, sugar is killing Americans. The question for marketers is, will the new guidelines be killing brands some brands, and giving life to others.