Calls for a soft drink tax misguided and missing the mark

Peak industry body representing the $7 billion non-alcoholic beverages industry.

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Calls for a soft drink tax misguided and missing the mark

For immediate release

Date: 10 April 2024

SYDNEY: The Australian Beverages Council – the peak body for the non-alcoholic drinks industry in the country, has today rejected a call for a tax on soft drinks, labelling it a misguided measure that misses the mark and will only hit hardest those households that can least afford it.

“The tax is a misguided attempt to address a complex problem like obesity that lacks real world evidence it has any discernible impact on weight. Consumption of sugar from drinks in Australia has decreased significantly over the last 20 years at the same time overweight, obesity and diabetes rates have continued to rise. Clearly soft drinks aren’t driving the nation’s expanding waistline which makes this call for a tax illogical and clearly just a revenue raiser for public health groups” said Geoff Parker, CEO of the Australian Beverages Council.

“The last National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey in 2011-12 showed that soft drinks were ranked seventh in kilojoule contribution from discretionary food and drinks for children, and eighth for adults. If the proponents of a tax were serious about addressing overweight and obesity, we’d suggest they started at the top of the lists where discretionary kilojoules are coming from,” said Parker.

“United Nations independent commissions and high-level meetings on non-communicable diseases have repeatedly considered and rejected a soft drink tax due to the lack of real-world evidence they work and the regressive nature of blunt instruments like taxes. At a time when many Australian households are struggling with rising cost of living pressures and just trying to make ends meet, calls for even more pain at the supermarket or convenience store checkout shows how out of step these public health organisations are with working Australian families.” said Parker.

“In 2018 the Australian Beverages Council along with the nation’s largest drink companies announced Australia’s first and only Sugar Reduction Pledge – a commitment to reduce sugar across their portfolios by 25% from 2015 to 2025. The last progress report in March 2023 showed companies had collectively reduced sugar by 18% which is equivalent to 192,000 tonnes of sugar. This significant progress shows the Pledge is working but there is still more to do, and companies will continue to reformulate, release new recipes and offer smaller pack sizes. The Pledge is a step in the right direction by an industry willing to play its part to offer more choices with less sugar when other sectors have chosen to do nothing as a collective,” said Parker.

“Proponents of a tax hoping for a decrease in sugar consumed from drinks are ignoring the peer reviewed studies and government survey data that shows that decrease has been happening in Australia for the last two decades. The significant reduction in sugar has been achieved without price hikes to the weekly supermarket shop or making a can of drink more expensive when people are out and about. Australians are already making healthier choices for them and their families without another tax on their household budget,” said Parker.

“The drinks industry will continue to support consumers with more choices and less sugar. We urge other sectors to play their part and commit to their own reductions in sugar, saturated fat and sodium. In 2024 we need a whole-of-industry commitment to playing its part along with government in addressing this complex problem,” said Parker.


Contact: Cathy Cook, Head of Corporate Affairs, Australian Beverages Council

Phone: 0406 399 211