Is the sugar tax a sweet move?

From April this year, a tax on high sugar soft drinks will come into force across the UK as part of the Government’s plan to combat obesity. Head of Nutrition, Gabriella Roberts explores the impact on both our wallets and our waistbands. 

Obesity levels in the UK are growing at an alarming rate. It is now suggested that 63% of the UK population are classified as either overweight or obese.

Sugar sweetened beverages such as energy drinks, squash and fizzy ‘non-diet’ soft drinks are the main source of sugar in the UK diet for both adults and children. These are often referred to as ‘empty calories’ as they offer little else except energy. Excessive intakes can lead to weight gain and are major contributor to obesity, leading the Government to respond.

How will it work?

Drinks with 8g or more sugar per 100ml will be hit the hardest with a tax of 24p per litre. Drinks with more than 5g of sugar per 100ml will be levied by 18p per litre. Take a 500ml bottle of coca cola that would usually cost £1.09, due to it fitting in the higher sugar threshold, the price would increase to £1.25

The money raised for the sugar tax will be given to the Department for Education for funding sport in schools. For most, paying an extra 16p for a bottle of fizzy pop for school funding is a worthy cause.  However, with many producers reformulating their products to reduce sugar in drinks to avoid the tax, the amount of revenue raised might not be as high as estimated.

Jamie Oliver, who has been campaigning for a sugar tax since 2015, introduced a 10p levy on sugary drinks in his own restaurants. It has been reported that sales of sugar-sweetened drinks fell by 11% in the first 12 weeks (2). This suggests the sugar tax could be more effective than sceptics believe.

How will BaxterStorey respond?

BaxterStorey takes its responsibility to educate and engage customers on nutrition seriously. Its aim is to make customers feel more confident in making better and more informed food choices.

The sugar tax is a Government initiative that will affect the whole industry, with no exceptions.  Whilst our supply chain prices will reflect the tax levy, it is the decision of our individual clients and locations to decide how it impacts customers.

However,  there continues to be healthier snack choices, such as the Healthy Me initiative. This includes freshly prepared juices and smoothies with no added sugar, which won’t be affected by the sugar tax levy.

What are the positives?

Whether consumers are deterred from buying sugary drinks because of the increased price or whether producers reduce the amount of sugar in their products, both result in an overall reduction in sugar consumption. This could have a significant impact on reducing obesity and associated illnesses, which in turn would reduce the financial burden, particularly on the NHS. Investing the money raised back into school sport will enable and encourage more children to participate in physical activity, impacting the overall health of children in a positive way.

There are many debates for and against the sugar tax. Whilst it is a step towards tackling the obesity crisis the UK is currently facing, The problem is  far bigger than just sugary drinks. Sugary drinks alone are not the sole reason for increasing obesity levels. The issue is much more complex and requires a well-planned and strategic approach.

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