Skip to Content

Sugar Filter Equation

We partnered with a market leader in providing data-powered product transparency so that we can help our customers understand what’s in the items they eat and use. Tackling sugary cereals first, we created an equation to help us determine which cereals were higher in added sugar as well as which ones were lower in added sugar, simplifying making choices at the shelf. 

The Science Behind How We Decided Which Cereals To Move

We created a sugar filter equation focusing on ‘sugar percentage’, calculating the value: percent of total calories that are coming from added sugars.

  • This calculation takes into consideration the Total Calories, Total Sugar and the category’s Sugar Allowance.
  • We provided a list of over 300 cold cereal options with their associated UPC, description, brand, size, total sugar value, added sugar value (if available), and total calories.
  • Together, we calculated the sugar calorie percentage for every cold cereal at a 1 cup baseline serving size.

Why Was the Sugar Allowance Created?

The FDA Nutrient Content Claims does not currently take Total Sugars into consideration when determining if a product is eligible for qualifying to make any Nutrient Content Claims on packages. The negative nutrients are Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium.

There are still minimal labeling regulations around Added Sugars (until the new Nutrition Facts Label being fully enforced starting January 2020). This also means on the current Nutrition Facts Panels, there are no set Daily Value Percent for Total Sugars. This makes things more difficult when identifying natural versus added sugar and to establish set thresholds or consumption levels per day.

When Total Sugars do not have a threshold set, this allows products with high amounts of sugar to be able to make health claims such as “Good Source of Fiber” or “Good Source of Vitamin C”. These positive Nutrient Content Claim attributes for products can be confusing to consumers as they are not telling the whole story when not including sugar in the equation.

The Sugar Allowance

The Sugar Allowance values were assigned as an average to each individual food category. Taking into consideration the differences between added and natural sugar in a product, they based it on a category level to have flexibility and account for categories that might always have natural sugar (i.e. fruit) and those that always have added sugar (i.e. pastries and cookies).

The Values set for the Sugar Allowance were determined by researching the average total sugar content within our partner’s database across all categories. Once an average could be determined, they further compared average total sugar amount listed within the USDA Food Composition Database for foods within each category, looking at individual ingredients and what their assumed contribution to the product was. If a product featured an Added Sugar value on the Nutrition Facts Panel, the Daily Value Percentage replaced the sugar percentage.

What About Cereals with Dried Fruit?

Cereals with dried fruit contain more naturally occurring sugars compared to cereals without dried fruit. Taking the sugar filter equation, we equated the calories coming from added sugars of these particular cereals using each individual sugar allowance number (i.e. 9 grams), not the average of 3 grams. The higher sugar allowance includes the higher naturally occurring sugars found in dried fruits, while also recognizing there are still added sugars included in the cereal as a whole product.

“Higher in Added Sugar”

We established a list of cold cereals that contained 25% or more of total calories coming from added sugar. Then, we:

  1. Repositioned these identified cereals to the bottom shelf.
  2. Added a blue channel strip which is placed below the “Higher in Added Sugar” items.
  3. Added easy-to-identify blue shelf tags to call out which cereals are higher in added sugar.

“Lower in Added Sugar”

We established a list of cold cereals that contained 5% or less of total calories coming from added sugar. Look for the easy-to-identify gold shelf tags throughout the rest of the cereal set on the shelves above the bottom shelf to quickly find these better-for-you cereals.