Difference Between Sugar-Free And No Sugar Added
By Claire Miles - October 15, 2021

When it comes to labels on food products it can be easy to confuse what is intended for marketing purposes and what is factual information. This is exacerbated when it comes to sugar, as sugar-free and no sugar added are seemingly interchangeable and yet mean very different things. The purpose of this article is to better explain these terms to help you decode them the next time you’re in the grocery store.

Table Summary

Sugar-FreeNo Sugar Added
The product contains no sugar at allThere is no sugar in the product except for the natural sugars present in the ingredients
Uses artificial sweetenersUses natural sugars found in the ingredients
less than 0.5% sugar in a servingNo limit on sugar as long as naturally present
Artificially sweetened using chemicalsCan only use sugars from the ingredients listed
Diet Cola is an exampleFruit juice is an example


Sugar-free is defined as a product that contains no more than 0.5% of sugar per serving of the product. These products are frequently sweetened using artificial sweeteners that are added to the manufacturing process. If the product says sugar-free then it must not contain sugar.

No sugar added is defined as a product that has no external source of sweetening outside of its listed ingredients. An example of this would be fruit juice, where it may state that no sugar is added but there are already sugars present from the fructose in the fruit which gives it its sweet taste. Seeing no sugar added to a product does not mean that there is no sugar present.

Sugar-Free VS No Sugar Added

The key difference between sugar-free and no sugar added is whether or not there are no sugars or not in the product and where that sugar comes from. Sugar-free must be a product that has an incredibly small or zero amount of sugar in it, whereas a product listed as no sugar added can have large amounts of sugar in it as long as that sugar comes from the advertised ingredients.