Soft drinks sugar solutions post sugar tax

Apr 3, 2018

The sugar tax has been hotly debated since it was first mentioned back in 2016 but now, two years on, it has come into action and divided not only the nation, but the entirety of the soft drink industry. While many people are throwing accusations of Nanny State, others are likening it to the taxation of the Tobacco industry.

Fizzy lemon and lime

This is great news for those who have either reduced their sugar or are living a sugar free lifestyle but for others, the price hike of between 18p and 24p per litre will come as a shock. It is hoped that the tax will not only raise awareness of the dangers of sugary drinks in diets, especially for children and young adults, but also encourage people to healthier and lower sugar choices.

Some drinks are currently exempt from the sugar tax. Fruit juices have no added sugar but the high level of fructose is naturally occurring which leaves it outside the tax’s current remit. The same applies to milkshakes due to the high quantity of lactose found in such drinks, however they may not be safe for long.

The two years leading up to the sugar tax has not been wasted. While some companies have stuck to their guns and belligerently refused to change the original recipe on their core products, others have been testing sugar alternatives and tinkering with formulas.

Up for adaptation

bottles of brightly coloured drink

Drinks with more than 8g (two teaspoons) of sugar per 100ml would be facing a 24 pence increase per litre, whereas drinks with 5g per 100ml would see an 18p increase. For those companies looking to avoid the cost, they have set to experimenting with other sweeteners. This has been met with some negativity.

Irn Bru has invested in a new formula that has seen some strongly worded feedback on social media, as well as people stockpiling the old Irn Bru.

Ribena have also changed their recipe in an effort to reduce the sugar in the popular children’s drink however people are taking to Twitter to announce their dissatisfaction with the product.

Others that have returned to their drawing boards include Lucozade and Supermarket own brands such Tesco, Asda and Co-op. Some brands remain untouched by the tax as they have 5g of sugar or less per 100ml such as Fanta, Sprite and Dr. Pepper.

Stubbornly staying put

tins of fizzy drink

The giants of the soft drink industry are standing firm and remaining loyal to their original recipe. When initially proposed, it was thought that the sugar tax would raise £520 million which would then be put towards Breakfast clubs and Sports Colleges, however, with more companies than expected to change their recipes, this estimate has been halved.

Now it is thought that those who are refusing to change their recipes, like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, will be strong contributors towards the sugar tax. In an effort not to pass on all of the cost to the customers, Coca-Cola has reduced the size of their bottles from 1.75l to 1.5l and increased the price by 20p.

Alternatives on the market

Home made lemonade

While some companies have been scrambling to adapt their recipes and others have been scaling down bottles, the yearlong run into the sugar tax has also bred some innovation within the soft drink industry. Recognising a gap in the market between the overly sweet fizzy drinks and plain water, smaller companies have been busily brewing their alternative adult soft drinks.

Seedlip is storming through the high street and supermarkets alike with its distilled and craft spirit approach to a grown-up non-alcoholic beverage. With its herbal flavour profile and use in both standard cocktails and their sober equivalent, Seedlip has become the number one alternative to alcohol when eating out. Being both sugar and sweetener free, it is untouched by the sugar tax and is perfect for those trying to restrict sugar from their diet.

Ugly is a more portable drink that meets the need in the lunchtime rush and is available from both supermarkets and health shops alike. With no sugar, sweeteners or anything artificial, this naturally flavoured sparkling water comes in four fruity flavours that our firm favourites with the British public.

Nix and Kix have a concept with a kick and all of their adult flavours come with a little heat. The health benefits of Cayenne are blended into refreshing combinations such and cucumber and mint or peach and vanilla, but they also require a little more attention so glasses can be garnished according to the flavour.

Far reaching effects

supermarket shelves of soft drink

It is not just the drinks industry that is being affected by the tax, but everyone who sells soft drinks. This means that some supermarkets have had to alter their offers to take into account the price hike. While Sainsbury’s still offer many soft drinks in their meal deal, a bottle of full fat Coca Cola is no longer included and customers have to pay for it separately.

There have also been rumours that the tax on soft drinks is just the beginning. There is an expectation that this will soon extend to milkshakes that have lots of added sugar and even food products like biscuits and cakes.

The sugar tax is already being heralded as a success despite some negative response. Many companies choosing to change their products have fulfilled the ambition of the tax, however will resentment from the public stop it from going any further?

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