European soft drinks sector averages 7.6% sugar reduction between 2019 and 2022

The European soft drinks sector has delivered a 7.6% reduction in average added sugars in its soft drinks between 2019 and 2022 across Europe, as part of Unesda’s actions to encourage European consumers towards healthier dietary habits:

This represents an additional reduction of four percentage points within one year (between 2021 and 2022). The data analytics and consulting company, GlobalData finds that Unesda is on track towards meeting its
commitment to reduce average added sugars in its beverages by another 10% in the EU27 and in the UK between 2019 and 2025. This will represent a 33% overall reduction in average added sugars in soft drinks since 2000, building on past sugar reduction milestones that the sector achieved from 2015 to 2019 (14.6% reduction on average) and from 2000 to 2015 (13.3% reduction on average).

The success of the sector’s reformulation efforts to reduce sugar largely relies on the use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners to increase the offer of low- and no-calorie beverages. These ingredients should continue to be supported by public authorities and regulators to enable the sector to make further progress on sugar reduction.

The European soft drinks sector, represented by Unesda, president and senior vice-president and chief marketing officer for PepsiCo in Europe, Ian Ellington, says the sector remains committed to making significant progress on its many EU Code of Conduct commitments.

“We have achieved impressive results in our health and nutrition actions and, in particular, in our sugar reduction, marketing and advertising practices and school policies,’’ he says before adding: ‘’The journey has not been easy. Rising inflation in 2022 significantly impacted our ability to use more recycled content in our packaging due to the challenges we faced in accessing food-grade feedstock for recycling. We need policy support to deliver fully circular beverage packaging and to continue advancing on our sugar reduction programme.’’

Separtely, Unesda says the industry faces major challenges to accelerate packaging circularity. Its corporate members continued their actions to increase the amount of recycled plastic content in their beverage PET bottles to achieve the sector’s objective of using 50% recycled PET by 2025. The cost and availability of this material have been major challenges impacting these efforts. The most effective way to address this issue is to prioritise high-quality recycling in EU and national legislation by granting the sector a priority access right to the feedstock for recycling issued from its PET bottles. This will ensure that PET bottles are recycled into new beverage packaging in a closed-loop system, and are not being downcycled in non-food applications.

The European soft drinks sector says it remains determined to deliver on all its commitments but needs supportive policies in place to be successful. In particular, the sector’s further actions to promote healthier lifestyles fully depend on support from EU public authorities and regulators for the use of ingredients assessed as safe by health authorities and on evidence-based dietary recommendations that do not denigrate or discriminate against any ingredient approved for use.

To accelerate the transition to full circularity of its packaging, Unesda calls for legislation supporting well-designed, industry-led Deposit Return Systems, the increased collection of beverage packaging across the EU and high-quality recycling through a priority access right to recycling feedstock to ensure a closed-loop system. In addition, Unesda calls for a realistic regulatory framework on reuse that provides beverage producers flexibility to invest in the packaging mix that makes the most sense from environmental, economic, and consumer perspectives. This also includes considering all available reusable and refill options (at home and on the go) for the achievement of the reuse and refill targets proposed in the proposal for a Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation.

Unesda says it will continue to engage with EU decision-makers in a constructive manner to help ensure policy predictability and coherence.

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