Due to changing consumer demands, the Union of European Soft Drinks Association (UNESDA) has announced a plan to reduce added sugars in all soft drinks by a further 10%, tripling the pace of sugar reduction.
UNESDA say the initiative is not a response to sugar taxes which are being considered in European governments, like Estonia, and instead is due to calls from the European Commission.
Sigrid Ligné, director general of UNESDA, told Food Navigator: “The initiative has two primary drivers. Firstly changing consumer preferences for products with less sugar and secondarily request by the EU and member states for the food and drink industry to reformulate and in particular the EU added sugar reduction annex which sets a target of 10% reduction across the food and drink industry”.
The well-known brands will use smaller pack sizes and encourage consumer choice towards low and no calorie drinks to achieve the target. Reformulation will also be used to reduce the sugar content.
“The sugar reduction will be achieved through four levers: reformulation of existing products, innovation of new products containing less sugar, offering of smaller pack sizes and placing promotion behind no and low sugar products to prompt consumer choice. It will include the use of low calorie sweeteners,” said Ligné.
The initiative is being followed by all UNESDA members, making up 80% of the European soft drinks industry, and applies to fizzy drinks, still drinks, dilutables, sports drinks and energy drinks.
Ligné says all the major European industry players are “committed to playing their part in reaching the target 10% reduction”.
The soft drinks industry is the first sector to announce a commitment in response to the EU’s general 10% added sugar reduction target , but the Children's Food Campaign in the UK say more sectors need to get involved.
"With the UK Government asking companies to deliver a 20% sugar reduction by 2020, industry’s much lower voluntary commitments are once again falling far short of what is needed. Instead, it is the threat or actual implementation of sugary drinks taxes in many European countries that is driving the more meaningful reformulation efforts; encouraging companies like Lucozade-Ribena to reduce the sugar content across their range, and not just introduce a few lower sugar alternatives whilst leaving their flagship products untouched," said Malcolm Clark, Co-ordinator at the organisation.
"Every part of the food industry has to do more to help people consume less sugar. If chocolate and confectionery companies and makers of sugary cereals and spreads are unwilling to substantially up their game, then the EU and individual governments should not be afraid to step in, to prioritise the health of their residents".
The average calories in soft drinks have been reduced by 12% from 2000-2015 and no and low calorie drinks now represent over 30% of sales in several EU markets, according to UNESDA.
Market data analysts Canadean will monitor the success.
Dan Sayre and Nikos Koumettis, presidents of The Coca-Cola Company’s business units in Europe said: “As a company, we have always grown by listening and responding to our consumers, stakeholders and society at large. We agree that too much sugar isn’t good for anyone and we want to enable consumers to better control their intake of added sugar. We believe that this and the other actions we are taking will help more people make the right decisions for them and their families”.