New research has revealed that there was a 29% reduction in the total amount of sugar sold in soft drinks in the UK between 2015 and 2018, according to the Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH).
The reduction occurred despite a 7% volume increase in sales of soft drinks during the same period.
Published in BMC Medicine, the research showed that individual soft drink companies in the UK are making a ‘sizeable contribution’ to sugar reduction.
NDPH reported that eight out of the top ten companies have reduced the sugar content of its products by 15% or more.
Examples include Coca-Cola and Britvic, who have reduced the total quantity of sugars in its drinks by 17% and 26% respectively. However, its flagship brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi have remained unchanged.
The study looked at nutritional information of a range of soft drinks in the UK, including carbonated drinks, concentrates, juice drinks and energy drinks, and compared this with sales data gathered from 2015 to 2018.
NDPH’s analysis reported that 73% of the decrease seen in sugar content of soft drinks was due to reformulation of existing products or the introduction of new lower sugar drinks. The remaining 27% was due to changes in purchasing behaviours.
In its discovery, NDPH refers to the ‘considerable’ pressure on the beverage industry to reduce the sugar content of soft drinks, including the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) by the British government in April 2018.
Also termed the ‘sugar tax’, the levy applies a tax to any soft drinks with a total sugar content over 5g per 100ml, in a move to tackle childhood obesity. However, NDPH states that the study was not designed to evaluate the specific effects of the SDIL.
Lead researcher of NDPH’s study Lauren Bandy said: “It is encouraging to see such a large reduction in sugars sold in soft drinks. This is largely a result of change in the composition of drinks but there have also been shifts in consumer purchasing behaviour, with more consumers choosing drinks with low, or no, sugar content.
“These changes are likely to be due to a combination of government action, mostly through the SDIL, changes in marketing practices on the part of the soft drinks industry, and greater awareness of the harms caused by sugary drinks amongst consumers. They show that it is possible for improvements in public health to be consistent with successful business practices.”
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