Project Sugar

The Challenge - Sweet But Deadly

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Health study after health study indicate our children’s diets are far from nourishing with increased sugar intake being a major contributor. Overindulging in sugar can lead to a wide range of health issues, including diabetes and obesity. But despite all of the warnings, parents and children have no idea how much sugar they should be consuming and often they are devouring more than twice the recommended daily intake. You’re on the right track if you’re cutting down on soft drinks and other sweets, but sugar lurks in seemingly savoury and ostensibly healthy foods too, so how can we cut back on this sugar overload?


As a parent of an eight year old girl, the dangers of consuming too much sugar was too close to home according to Peter Vozvoteca, Senior Designer at [toughproblem] consultancy. "There was a moment, whilst watching my daughter raid the pantry and opt for a sugar-rich ‘healthy’ muesli bar, when I asked myself some confronting questions.
Questions like, Am I making it too easy for her to access sugar-rich foods? How is she going to make her own informed decisions in the future? In this day and age, with so much information about the dangers of too much sugar in our diets, why is message not getting through?”


To answer this question, we set ourselves a challenge: “How might we empower our kids to make smart, independent decisions about excess sugar consumption?"

The Research Insights

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[toughproblem] engaged with kids (aged 6-18), parents, educators and nutrition experts to learn more about healthy eating and the negative impacts of excessive sugar consumption. By immersing ourselves in the problem space we were able to better understand the everyday experience of both kids and parents and their perceptions of sugar consumption. 

Using research techniques such as Flash Cards, Interviews and Observation, the team was able to learn more about how children make food choices and discern between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food, the extent to which children and parent apply ‘rules’ around the intake of sugar and the ability for children and parents to interpret the ‘Nutritional Information’ label on products.

We discovered some significant findings from the research which included:

  • Children and parents have a low knowledge of their recommended daily sugar intake.
  • Children and parents have little inclination to read and interpret the Nutritional Information panels on food and drink products.
  • Sweets are at the centre of social activities for kids (e.g. birthdays, social gatherings) and revered as treats rewards.
  • Children and parents generally associate sugar intake with things that are sweet.

The Creative Response - 'Sugar-o-Meter' lunchbox sticker download

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The research inspired several innovations. According to Clare Villalba from [toughproblem], “We co-designed with parents to develop some unique, people focused innovations aiming to empower parents and children to quickly and easily realise their recommended sugar intake, interpret nutritional information on product labels and to make informed decisions about the food they are consuming. Innovations such as our ingenious ‘Sugar Number - rule of thumb’, helps parents and children recall their daily recommended sugar intake. To calculate your sugar number, all you do is follow a simple rule for children aged 5-18 - ‘Double your age is your daily intake in grams’. In addition, our simple ‘1 to 4 Hand’ tool makes it easy to convert grams to teaspoons by showing that one teaspoon (thumb) is equivalent to four grams of sugar (fingers). 

Another innovation is our Sugar-O-Meter (see image). A large, colourful sticker, the Sugar-o-Meter shows a metered dial that categorises foods according to the sugar content. Healthy, low sugar foods at one end of the dial, has a green label at the top to indicate that they can be eaten ’Every Day’. The remaining sections are 'Some Days', 'Special Occasions' and “No Way” foods (sugar-sweetened soft drinks display a red danger label). The Sugar-O-Meter is a sticker that is personalised based on your child’s Sugar Number and then stuck on their lunchbox or on the fridge. When children and their parents are selecting foods they can quickly check the sugar on the nutritional label and see where it sits on their ‘Sugar-O-Meter’ to help to easily work out what foods are appropriate and how often they should be consuming different items.

The Creative Response - mp4 Campaign Soundtrack jingle

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The ‘Don’t be slack..Read the Pack’ campaign will be an important element in our ability to meet the challenge. According to the creator Mark Traynor from Lightknights Entertainment, “the song and jingle reinforces personal and parental responsibility around sugar intake. 

Brisbane singer Jacquie Schwantes brings an infectious and fresh sound which will appeal to a wide audience. We’re hoping the campaign will as iconic as the successful ‘Slip, Slop, Slap  - Sun Safety’ awareness campaign from the 1980’s and encourage the use of the song in educational institutions and at home."