Sugar Tax: One year on. 8 key learnings from a human perspective.

Posted by Emily Pitman on the 8th July, 2019
Sugary drinks are a major source of sugar for children, but soft drinks is just one category - it’s easy to forget that our supermarkets are full of unexpected products containing alarmingly high sugar content. While some encouraging progress has been made towards the government’s next wave of reduction targets, the responsibility still lies with manufacturers to drive real change.

Childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes are now at an all-time high in the UK, with sugary soft drinks the single biggest source of sugar for children and teenagers. Our omnibus also revealed that conscious consumerism (including the reduction/modification of sugar in diets) is being adopted by 3/4 of the UK at present, and climbing. As part of the government’s ongoing action plan to tackle this, April 2018 marked a major shake-up in the soft drinks industry with the introduction of the much-anticipated sugar tax, whereby a levy is applied to manufacturers of soft drinks containing 5g of sugar per 100ml or more. We’ve been following the topic of sugar with close interest for some years now, with many of our FMCG clients coming up against major decisions once the levy was announced. Either facing the difficult and costly task of reformulation, with the risk of consumers noticing and disliking changes in taste, or finding a way to fund the levy, in most instances by simply charging more to account for the difference.

With most manufacturers taking the reformulation route for at least some of their ranges, many of the nation’s beloved soft drink brands now use less sugar-heavy recipes. Despite the inevitable backlash that ensued around changes in taste, there’s no doubt that these modifications have already saved the nation millions of calories over the past year. In this report we outline our key learnings one year on from the sugar tax launch, from a human understanding perspective. Drawing on our FMCG expertise, client feedback and recent results of our nationwide Omnibus survey – also featured in The Grocer’s recent soft drinks special edition and the World View section of IMPACT magazine – we explore how concerned people really are with their sugar consumption, how the nation has responded to the sugar tax so far and whether the tax has had any genuine impact on consumer behaviour. With new Public Health England targets and the possibility of other sugar-heavy categories falling under a similar levy, we also explore where the war on sugar could go next with advice for other food and beverage brands that may need to take a pre-emptive strike on possibly impending reformulation needs.

Here’s our 8 human insights into the sugar tax one year on…

Meet the Author: Emily Pitman
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