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Sugar levy goes live

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy came into force last week (6 April), having been announced as part of the 2016 Budget back in March 2016.

Many manufacturers have reformulated brands to make them ‘sugar tax exempt’. Indeed, in the last few weeks alone Food & Drink Technology has shared stories of Capri-Sun and Sprite reducing their sugar content and/or adding no calorie variants to their ranges – and there have been many other examples since the levy was unveiled.

Industry, however, reminds us that this work started long before the tax was announced, with sugar reduction, portion size and promotion of low and no calorie products having been a focus for many years.

The British Soft Drinks Association says that while it recognises the health issues associated with obesity, “it’s important to note that obesity is a complex issue with a number of factors and there is no evidence to suggest a tax will reduce obesity”. Meanwhile, sugar intake from soft drinks has been declining yearly since 2013, but NHS figures reveal that obesity prevalence increased from 15 per cent in 1993 to 27 per cent in 2015 – and data from Kantar shows that although sugar intake from soft drinks has decreased by 18.7 per cent, it has increased in frozen confectionery (+8.7 per cent), take home confectionery (+2.3 per cent) and biscuits (+1.4 per cent) since 2013.

We will, of course, be keeping an eye on developments regarding the levy, including any proposals to extend it to other categories, but all the time it remains a tax on a single category, there are fears it will not have a meaningful impact on obesity levels.

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