Over 65% of social media posts about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are negative, according to a new report from social media research firm Loudpixel.
The Lansing, Michigan-based firm examined perceptions of HFCS from social media posts across Twitter, blogs, comments, videos, Facebook, forums and mainstream news over the course of one month, collecting 25,000 posts in total.
The research also revealed that the top most discussed product categories were soda (10.3%), candy (2.9%), ketchup (2.9%), gum (1.8%) and bread (1.5%).
In addition, 42.5% of social media posts discussed potential side effects of HFCS, led by mentions of weight gain, said Loudpixel.
Sugar substitutes and HFCS
Loudpixel previously investigated how sugar substitutes including aspartame, sucralose, stevia and sugar alcohols, as well as sugar-free products, were being discussed on social media.
“After pulling together our research results related to perceptions around sugar substitutes, high fructose corn syrup was the natural next step in our research,” said Allie Siarto, co-founder and Director of Analytics at Loudpixel.
“There are more social media conversations taking place about HFCS than about any single sugar substitute, so it’s clearly a topic that people are passionate about.”
The new study, available here , provides companies with insights into the conversations around an ingredient and brands.
The conversations monitored related to the use, safety and general opinions of HFCS. The Loudpixel team examined perceptions around the most discussed potential side effects of the ingredient, including weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and others. Researchers also examined sentiment around the most discussed food and beverage categories and around specific brands including Heinz, Oreo, Smuckers and others.
New insights into conversations about ingredients and brands
Siarto told FoodNavigator-USA: “We’re definitely seeing interest from a lot of big companies about our research. They are coming to us because they are thinking about which ingredients to use in products or they are thinking of reformulating products.
“The information also gives them insights into how to market and communicate their products.”
The data obtained from monitoring the social media conversations is a complementary piece of research for companies, and can help inform additional market research initiatives by a company.
“The sharing of facts, research and other news through social media is driving purchase decisions now more than ever. Marketers who understand these perceptions will be better armed to create products people want to buy and to communicate with audiences,” added Siarto.
What's trending on Twitter? A cautionary note
While more and more brands are monitoring social media postings to understand what consumers are thinking, some experts have, however, urged them to use caution when using some sentiment analysis tools that trawl though posts on blogs, facebook, Twitter and other online forums.
For example, a recent analysis of social media posts on GMOs, vaccinations and high fructose corn syrup conducted by KD Paine & Partners found that more than one-third of comments were generated from ‘pay-per-click’ sites, ‘content farms’, ‘robot responders’, faux social media accounts or firms with a financial interest in the debate such as marketers of health products and alternative therapies that were using discussion platforms to market their products.
The research also revealed that a large proportion of the remaining posts (that were generated by real human beings) were created by a small number of posters with strongly negative views creating “a disproportionate amount of conversation”.
Speaking with FoodNavigator-USA about the Loudpixel data, Paine noted that she does not know if the current data is good or bad because the methodology is not clearly identified. "You need to clean up a lot of data to get to the meaningful data," she cautioned. "And we need to peak into the methodology."
Click here for more information on the KDPaine & Partners study, which was commissioned by the Corn Refiners Association.