ESR11 Strategies to reduce the sugar content of dairy products targeted at children

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This thesis attempted to provide stakeholders involved in the development of products targeted at children recommendations to reduce the sugar content of products, as well as to provide to public policy makers information that serves as the basis for the design of sugar reduction programs. The following objectives were addressed:

General objectives

The general objective of this thesis was to evaluate different strategies to reduce the sugar content of dairy products targeted at children from a sensory point of view.

Specific objectives

  • To develop recommendations for gradual reduction of sugar content in three dairy products targeted at children.
  • To evaluate alternatives for the development of sugar reduced dairy products through sensory cross-modal interactions.
  • To develop and characterize a sugar reduced dairy product targeted at children.
  • To evaluate the impact of the information on parents’ food choices and healthiness perception of food products targeted at children.

Summary of results

Strategies to reduce the sugar contend of products available in the marketplace

Modern societies have normalized children’s consumption of highly sugary products. However, results from this work seems to refute the general belief that children may prefer excessively sweet products. In a first study, results showed that a direct sugar reduction up to 25% was possible in chocolate milk, vanilla yogurt, and vanilla milk desserts without significant changes on the liking of 8 to 13 years old children. In line with these results, a second study showed that despite some changes in the sensory profile of 40% sugar-reduced vanilla milk desserts, school-aged children liked the sugar-reduced products as much as they liked the regular product. In addition, taste-aroma-texture sensory cross-modal were confirmed to minimize the sensory changes due to reduction of sugar content in vanilla milk desserts.

Development of dairy products with low sugar content

Another venue to reduce the sugar intake of children is the development of innovative sugar reduced products. In this sense, children’s involvement in new product development may contribute to ensure that healthy alternatives meet their wants and needs. In a third study co-creation with children was explored to develop a healthy dairy product. Results indicated that children showed a high level of engagement during the activity and provided actionable ideas to develop healthy dairy products with high acceptance among children. In addition, results highlighted the potential of marketing strategies currently used in the food industry to promote healthy products among children.

Package information as a strategy to reduce sugar intake

A multicomponent sugar reduction strategy seems necessary to reduce sugar consumption. For instance, regulation of food packaging has drawn attention due to its influence in adults’ and children’s perception and choice of foods. Results from a fourth study confirmed that food package design strongly influences mothers’ healthiness perception and choice of snacks for their children, which highlights the need to strengthen regulations of food packaging to aid parents to make better informed decisions.


  • Academic secondment at Nofima (7 months) focused on the data analysis of sensory data of choice conjoint data and the exploration of individual differences.
  • Secondment at Instituto Nacional de Alimentación (INDA) (2 months, remote) focused on the development of a strategy to reduce sugar consumption among children attending public daycare centers.

Publications by ESR 11

  • Velázquez, A. L., Vidal, L., Varela, P., & Ares, G. (2020). Cross-modal interactions as a strategy for sugar reduction in products targeted at children: Case study with vanilla milk desserts. Food Research International, 130, 108920.
  • Velázquez, A. L., Vidal, L., Varela, P., & Ares, G. (2020). Can children use temporal sensory methods to describe visual and food stimuli?. Food Quality and Preference, 86, 104002.
  • Velázquez, A. L., Vidal, L., Alcaire, F., Varela, P., & Ares, G. (2021). Significant sugar-reduction in dairy products targeted at children is possible without affecting hedonic perception. International Dairy Journal, 104937.
  • Velázquez, A. L., Vidal, L., Varela, P., & Ares, G. (2021). Sugar reduction in products targeted at children: Why are we not there yet?. Journal of Sensory Studies, e12666.
  • Velázquez, A. L., Alcaire, F., Vidal, L., Varela, P., Næs, T., & Ares, G. (2021). The influence of label information on the snacks parents choose for their children: Individual differences in a choice based conjoint test. Food Quality and Preference, 104296.
  • Velázquez, A. L., Galler, M., Vidal, L., Varela, P., & Ares, G. (2022). Co-creation of a healthy dairy product with and for children. Food Quality and Preference, 96, 104414.
  • Ares, G., Velázquez, A. L., Vidal, L., Curutchet, M. R., & Varela, P. (2022). The role of food packaging on children’s diet: Insights for the design of comprehensive regulations to encourage healthier eating habits in childhood and beyond. Food Quality and Preference, 95, 104366.


Blogs by ERS 11

  • Sweet Sweet Dairy!



Blosposts by ESR11

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