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Soft drinks industry comes together

Around 300 guests gathered in London last week for the British Soft Drinks Association’s (BSDA) Industry Lunch. With the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy set to take effect in April next year, there was much to discuss.

BSDA president and chief operating officer at Lucozade Ribena Suntory Peter Harding addressed guests, noting that the UK soft drinks industry has worked hard to build a positive reputation, but that became tarnished when it was labelled “the poster child for childhood obesity.”

He discussed the levy as something which “may not be welcome but is a fact of life” and detailed how the sector is not shying away from it, but is instead demonstrating strong leadership and changing for a better future. He urged the manufacturers present to continue to tell their stories, as industry’s response is a success story.

Harding detailed efforts, which include reformulation “long before the tax was even mentioned,” as well as introducing smaller pack sizes and switching marketing to focus on low/no sugar varieties. And the efforts are working, he explained, with sugar intake from soft drinks down by 17.2% since 2012.

However, he noted that concerns about sugar have extended to caution over sweeteners and industry must continue to “work to debunk the myths around sweeteners,” instead promoting their role in driving down sugar levels.

He said, “The concerns run against the grain of the efforts of our sector… Our progress shows we can be trusted as an industry to do the right thing.”

Harding also touched on the topic of littering, arguing that the “impact of plastic waste on the marine environment is not sustainable.”

Detailing some disheartening statistics – 89% of households are confused about what can be recycled and recycling rates are as low as 15% in the UK – he said that “it is clear that progression is needed.”

Harding noted that industry is “committed to engaging with government to find a solution”. And with ambitions to be 100% recyclable, he said the UK soft drinks sector has “seized the opportunity to be part of the answer.”

He concluded with a warning that the sector’s reputation has been “severely cracked by the storm around sugar” and despite its progress and efforts, “light will continue to be shone” on the industry.”

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