Sugar tax is “working”

Sales of sugar-free drinks are up, whilst those with full sugar are in decline. What’s more, new sugar-free variants of popular drinks have gained distribution in major retailers.

“The soft drinks industry levy is working,” wrote Jack Winkler and Tam Fry, emeritus professor of nutrition policy at London Metropolitan University and National Obesity Forum chair respectively, in an article for Foodnavigator.com. “It has got a key government nutrition policy – the childhood obesity plan – off to a rapid start.”

Indeed, whilst the SDIL is not a silver bullet, research by Winkler and Fry shows the direction of travel is promising. The balance of sugar-free-to-sugared drinks increased to 60-40% for Coca Cola and 83-17% for Pepsi, they noted, with sales of Coke Zero Sugar up 50% in the past year.

In surveys across supermarkets, pharmacies, takeaway food multiples and independents, there are now only two full sugar products of “public health significance” on the British market: Classic Coke and Blue Pepsi.

The shifts, they said, are principally the result of price differentials that SDIL immediately opened up between full sugar drinks and the levy-free ones. “The changed sales figures show that discounts have had the effect that economists expected and health specialists hoped for,” they wrote.

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