Is the Tax on Fizzy Drinks Just the Start?
In the UK, the 2018 deadline for the ‘Soft Drinks Industry Levy’ is just around the corner. Better known as the ‘Sugar Tax’, the levy has already prompted many manufacturers to reformulate their product portfolio of beverages, so they fall below the tax threshold.
Some manufacturers have taken a different approach and have opted to introduce new brands containing minimal or no sugar or reduce portion sizes for drinks with high sugar content.
However, for some the tax on soft drinks alone isn’t enough. Health campaigners are pushing for the tax on fizzy drinks to be extended to chocolate, sweets, and confectionery, as these also contain large amounts of sugar and calories.
Action on Sugar Demand 20% Levy on Chocolate and Confectionery
Chocolate and confectionery consumption is the second highest contributor to sugar intake for children, closely trailing behind soft drinks. Consumption accounts for 9% of all the sugar eaten by children between the ages of 4 and 10 and 11% for children 11+.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that UK charity Action on Sugar (AoS) is urging the government to introduce a minimum 20% levy on chocolate and sweet confectionery to help combat childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes in the UK. They are also calling on the government to ban “share bags” of sweets and chocolates, as they contain excessive amounts of sugar and children may eat them all in one go.
Figures suggest that the diet of an average child contains three times more sugar than recommended. Statistics also reveal that one in five children are overweight or obese by the time they start school. This number rises to one in three by the time the child reaches secondary school.
Therefore, it’s quite clear that drastic action is needed if that figure is to be reversed.
Sugar Taxes in Other Countries
As well as being prominent in the UK, sugar taxes are also gaining momentum in other countries around the world. What’s interesting is that sugar taxes on chocolate and confectionery products have already been introduced successfully in many of these countries. But, will the UK follow suit?
Although the focus for now is on sugary drinks in the UK, it won’t be surprising if, in the foreseeable future, chocolate and confectionery products are next in line.
After all, many chocolate and confectionery products contain as much sugar as soft drinks. For instance, while a can of a popular fizzy drink contains 39 grams of sugar, a single-serve milk chocolate bar has 30.5 grams of sugar. Therefore, the best-selling chocolate bar in the UK would fall within the higher band of the UK’s Sugar Tax if it was a soft drink.
Public Health England Taking Action
So, for now, the chocolate and confectionery industry has narrowly escaped regulation. Although, this hasn’t stopped government body Public Health England (PHE) from introducing voluntary sugar reduction targets and portion size guidance for the industry in its report “Sugar Reduction: Achieving the 20%”.
As well as targeting the chocolate and confectionery industry, food in eight other categories was also advised to cut sugar by 20% by 2020. These include sweets, cakes, breakfast cereals, biscuits, yoghurts, puddings, pastries and ice cream.
Approaches to Meet Sugar Reduction Targets
In their report, PHE also suggested that the nine food categories should focus on meeting the sugar reduction targets using three approaches. These are
- Reducing sugar levels by 20% across their products
- Reducing portion sizes or the number of calories coming from products likely to be consumed by an individual at one time
- Pushing consumers towards healthier products that contain little or no added sugar.
However, PHE admitted food manufacturers may find reformulation and reducing sugar levels difficult and proposed that reducing portion size was probably the most feasible solution.
While the soft drinks industry can successfully reformulate their products by substituting the sugar with artificial sweetener, this approach doesn’t generally work for food. Particularly chocolate, where sweeteners simply do not work as they don’t perform the same function as sugar.
Not a Strong Enough Incentive
Questions have been raised about the voluntary nature of the targets, which means there is very little enforcement. The UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has already announced that the 20% sugar reduction targets proposed by PHE are unlikely to be met.
According to AoS, the PHE targets simply aren’t a strong enough incentive for manufacturers, and more progress would be made by enforcing a sugar tax.
Companies are Taking Action
Although the sugar reduction targets are unlikely to be met, good progress has still been made by many manufacturers which shouldn’t be ignored.
For instance, Nestlé is one of the many companies that has been leading the way in reformulation. The company have renovated their confectionery product range to contain less than 10.6 grams of sugar per serving for children and below 12.5 grams per serving for adults. Similarly, cereal manufacturer Kellogg recently announced that they would reduce the amount of sugar in its three best-selling children’s cereal by 20-40% by the middle of 2018.
However, there are still a number of businesses that are lagging behind and choosing to take no or minimal action.
Doing nothing is no longer an option. But, only time will tell whether the sugar reduction targets will go from voluntary to enforced.
Bringing the Benefits of Pigging to Chocolate, Confectionery and Food Manufacture
HPS Product Recovery Solutions work with a wide range of businesses that process chocolate and confectionery plus other foods including bakery, breakfast cereal, ice cream, desserts and yoghurts. Our product recovery and pigging systems for chocolate and confectionery recover major amounts of product from pipelines that would otherwise be wasted. This leads to improvements in yield and reductions in changeover times and downtime.
Our pigging solutions have helped leading brands such as Nestlé, Hershey, Lindt, Chocolates Garoto, Kraft-Mondelez, Ghirardelli, Haribo to name a few.
Pigging can’t directly help in regard to PHE’s sugar reduction targets. However, it can certainly help companies improve their operational efficiency, productivity, and profits.
To bring the benefits of pigging to your organisation, then please get in touch.