The European soft drinks industry has committed to reducing added sugars in its products by a further 10% by 2020.
The Union of European Soft Drinks Associations (Unesda), which represents soft drink manufacturers in the region, promise to implement the changes across Europe in response to growing consumer awareness and concern around sugar.
The industry will focus on reformulation and new product innovation – including wider use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners and increasing the availability of smaller pack sizes to allow consumers to control their sugar intake. Soft drink producers will also invest in promoting reduced-sugar and no-sugar drinks in a drive to encourage consumers to opt for healthier choices over standard, full-sugar options.
The target represents a commitment to accelerate the industry’s sugar reduction efforts, having cut sugar levels by 12% between 2000 and 2015.
By joining industry forces at European level, the commitment has the merit of putting in place a Europe-wide approach and impacting over 500 million consumers, Unesda said. It has been announced in response to the EU’s call for reformulation and sugar reduction across the food industry, with the 10% target agreed between European Union (EU) member states and the European Commission.
Unesda Soft Drinks Europe president Stanislas de Gramont, who is also CEO of Suntory Beverage and Food Europe, said: “We welcome the EU’s policy approach to reformulation and sugar reduction which is based on partnership and allows us to deliver speed and scale. This 10% sugar reduction commitment represents a tripling of the pace of our efforts to date. We will need to employ a wide array of tools in order to achieve our ambitious target and we hope other food categories will follow suit in order to generate critical mass.”
Dan Sayre and Nikos Koumettis, presidents of The Coca-Cola Company’s business units in Europe, added” “As a company, we have always grown by listening and responding to our consumers, stakeholders and society at large. We agree that too much sugar isn’t good for anyone and want to enable consumers to better control their intake of added sugar. We believe that this and the other actions we are taking will help more people make the right decisions for them and their families.”
And PepsiCo’s Richard Evans said: “Companies like PepsiCo have a tremendous opportunity – as well as a responsibility – to not only make a profit, but to do so in a way that makes a difference in the world. We were first movers in reformulating products for lower calories but we recognise that more must be done to help people manage their calorie intake. Working together with our industry peers, this accelerated programme to reduce sugar is one of the ways we are bringing our Performance with Purpose vision alive. We aim to deliver strong financial performance sustainably over time in a way that is responsive to the needs of society.”
The progress of the sector will be monitored and reported by an independent third-party research body.
The timely move comes little more than a week after legislators in France banned unlimited refills of sugary drinks in restaurants.
One in eight French adults is obese and 40% are overweight, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has said, although the country generally has one of the lowest rates of obesity anywhere in the European Union.
And the UK government has introduced a high-profile sugar levy, with Ireland and South Africa also waiting for legislation to take effect.
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