Proof that Jamie’s sugar tax works?

A 10p levy on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) sold in Jamie’s Italian restaurants resulted in a “significant decline” in sales, according to research published this week.

In June 2015, the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver announced that drinks with added sugar would cost 10p more in his restaurants, with the proceeds given to the Children’s Health Fund.

The extra charge, put in place in 37 restaurants, “was associated with an 11% decline in sales of SSBs per customer 12 weeks after it was introduced”, experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said. After six months, the decline was 9.3%.

The re-design of menus (drinks were separated into SSBs and “other drinks”) and the availability of lower sugar drinks also played a part, explained Professor Steve Cummins, who co-led the research.

“Our study suggests that a small levy on sugar-sweetened drinks sold in restaurants, coupled with complementary activities, may have the potential to change consumer behaviour and reduce the consumption of these drinks which are associated with major health risks,” he said.

Indeed, the study raises some important questions about the changes that can drive behaviour change. For example, further research is needed to determine what role the levy played compared to the menu changes, for example, or indeed Oliver’s high profile and the charitable donation element.

The impact on turnover will also be an important consideration for other businesses (low and no sugar drink sales also declined), as will an understanding of the health implications of the 22% uplift in fruit juice sales. There was also no data on alcohol sales.

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