Non-alcoholic drinks industry leads the way in reducing sugar consumption

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

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Non-alcoholic drinks industry leads the way in reducing sugar consumption

WEDNESDAY, 9 JUNE 2021, SYDNEY: Australian producers of non-alcoholic drinks are leading the rest of the shopping trolley in giving consumers better choices to reduce consumption of sugar, and proposals to introduce a sugar tax to address obesity is a last century solution to a modern-day problem.

“Calls today by the AMA for a tax on drinks in the shopping trolley of everyday Australians will hurt households but more importantly will miss the mark and make no impact on the rates of obesity and diabetes,” said the Australian Beverages Council’s CEO, Geoff Parker.

“The doctors’ union knows this type of discriminatory and regressive tax lacks any evidence from anywhere in the world in providing public health benefits and is nothing more than a money grab ahead of an election in the near future,” said Parker.

This type of discriminatory and regressive tax lacks evidence from anywhere in the world that it provides discernible public health benefits. Countries that have introduced similar taxes have failed to see a meaningful impact on obesity and diabetes rates and many have repealed them – including Denmark, Norway and other Nordic countries.

Residents in the UK also aren’t getting thinner since their sugar tax and prevalence rates of obesity in Mexico have increased since they introduced their tax. This lack of real-life evidence is one of the reasons the Government doesn’t support a tax on households, particularly at a time when many families are facing extreme hardship as a result of the economic impacts of the pandemic.

The AMA’s call for a tax also ignores recent peer-reviewed research in the journal Nutrients which shows a long-term, 20+ year shift in Australians’ non-alcoholic drink choices away from regular sugar drinks, with each Australian over that 20-year period drinking an astonishing 30 per cent less sugar, the equivalent of 32 teaspoons or 127 grams of less sugar per person, per year. In fact, since 2015 sales of low/no sugar drinks have exceeded those of regular sugar drinks.

Australians have achieved this outstanding result through consuming significantly more no-sugar drinks, such as plain, sparkling and functional waters, and sugar-free drinks. The AMA is right to talk about Olympic swimming pools, but these pools in 2021 are largely filled with plain water and low/no sugar drinks given 60 per cent of non-alcoholic drinks consumed by Australians are these varieties.

The significant shift away from sugar sweetened drinks in favour of low/no sugar varieties, including an exponential rise in the consumption of bottled water has been fuelled by an impressive portfolio renovation in the drinks industry that has been well underway for decades and includes reformulation, smaller pack sizes, more diversity in vending and workplace settings, and full support for canteen guidelines and the Health Star Rating Scheme.

Bringing speed and scale to this portfolio renovation agenda is the industry’s flagship Sugar Reduction pledge, launched in June 2018. It is a commitment by the nation’s largest drink companies to reduce sugar across their portfolio by 20 per cent by 2025, a goal the industry is already well on the way to exceeding. This is the first time an industry has united to reduce sugar and shows the drinks industry is stepping up to play its part and is ahead of the rest of the items in the shopping trolley in being responsive and responsible. The drinks industry encourages other sectors of the food supply to also step up and launch their own pledges and play their part in addressing a complex, multi-factorial problem like obesity and diabetes.

The AMA have regrettably ignored these positive steps by the drinks industry and the encouraging public health trends including the latest data on drink sales and have deliberately neglected to mention that these seismic shifts in sales and consumer purchasing patterns over two decades have happened at the same time that obesity and diabetes rates have risen significantly in both adults and children. We encourage the AMA to revisit the latest peer-reviewed data and look for contemporary, real world, evidence-based solutions to address the nation’s expanding waistline rather than slapping on a tax on households that can least afford it.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Cathy Cook, Head of Corporate Affairs, 0406 399211,