Sugar Tax: Combating childhood obesity

With the sugar tax, just around the corner as Phillip Hammond announced changes to the new sugar tax to commence in April 2018, the giants of the food and drink industry have started the process of cutting sugar from their products.

What is the sugar tax about?

With childhood obesity dramatically on the rise in the UK, the government has decided to introduce a new levy on soft drinks containing added sugar. A lower rate will be applied to drinks with an added sugar content of 5 grams or more per 100 millilitres, while a significantly higher rate will be applied to drinks with 8 grams of added sugar or more per 100 millilitres. An exception to the tax will be applied to smaller producers and to those importing soft drinks from the smallest producers abroad. Soft drinks containing no added sugar will also avoid paying the tax. Additionally, some alcoholic drinks will suffer from the tax, if the alcohol volume is up to 1.2%.

This tax is meant to encourage producers of added sugar soft drinks to change the formula on their products to one consisting of less sugar, and to reduce the size of the product in order to encourage people to consume less sugar and choose healthier options. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a number of cancers.

Those already suffering from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or those with lactose intolerance will benefit from a positive impact as a result of the levy.

The government has announced that the levy will take effect from April 2018, giving enough time to companies to manage the changes.
Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of The Royal Society for Public Health is happy with the change and maintains that “this is a crucial development for the health of our children, who receive the highest proportion of their added sugar intake from such drinks.”

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Just recently, the cereal company Kellogg announced their plan to eliminate between 20% to 40% of its sugar contents from three of their top selling children’s cereals -Coco Pops, Rice Krispies, and Rice Krispies Multi-Grain Shapes. The company has taken the decision to stop selling Ricicles, one of its sweetest cereals, which contained an astonishing 34g of sugar per 100g. Simultaneously, the company plans to stop promoting cereals such as Frosties, to children, in the hope to combat child obesity.

Kellogg are not the only ones to cut significant amounts of sugar from their products following the tax levy. Many companies have cut corners by changing the size of their sweets to smaller ones; in turn reducing the amount of sugar found.

Online personal trainers, Nuyoo have put together some of the biggest companies which have, or plan on dramatically cutting the amount of sugar for some of their most popular consumer-based products.

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The soft-drink giant has quietly been cutting sugar levels from their products by up to 30%, which has now been replaced with sweeteners. Whether this is a heathier alternative remains debatable, however this could be considered a small step closer to combating child obesity. Some of their three bestsellers, Fanta, Sprite and Dr Pepper have all seen a decrease in sugar content. However, it seems like the company is not particularly happy about the changes in the soft drink industry levy. Earlier this month, it has been revealed they are threatening to cut investments in the UK if the government decides to move forward with the sugar tax. Despite the warnings, MP’s have pressed to pursue the tax.


The American company PepsiCo produces some of the most popular soft-drinks such as Pepsi, Mountain-Dew, Gatorade, 7 Up and Lipton, and are thought to have cut their added sugar content to 100 calories or fewer for their 12 ounces can. The new change which is meant to help fight against child obesity, should come into force by 2025.

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One of the world’s biggest chocolate manufacturers with products including KitKat, Lion, Milkybar and Smarties, vows to take 10% of its sugar content from its confectionery in the UK and Ireland by 2018. This is the equivalent of 7,500 tonnes of sugar, and they plan to do so without resorting to artificial sweeteners.

“The 10% reduction is not a case of a straight swap of sugar for another ingredient – it will be achieved in a number of different ways so that we can make sure that the taste is as good or better from product to product,” a spokesperson from Nestle has commented.

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The Japanese brand in charge of the popular soft-drinks Lucozade and Ribena is also said to reformulate all of its UK brands this year, in order to avoid being hit by the sugar tax which comes into effect April 2018. They promise to take out 50% of its sugar, which will result in each drink having 4.5g of sugar per 100 ml or less.
Peter Harding, the head of Lucozade Ribena Suntory has told the Telegraph:

“We’re hoping this changes customers’ behaviour. We see opportunities in the UK marketplace for companies that can deliver lower-sugar and healthier brands and can step into healthier options such as water-based, coffee-based, tea-based propositions and non-alcoholic premium beverages.”

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