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Water groups target sugary soft drinks with ad plans

By Neil Merrett , 21-Apr-2009
Last updated on 21-Apr-2009 at 12:55 GMT

Falling UK demand for bottled water products is being seen by some industry associations as a potential obesity risk due to increased consumption of higher sugar soft drinks.

In responding to sales concerns, the Natural Hydration Council (NHC), a not for profit organisation led by Danone, Nestle and Highland Spring, has set its sites on the potential health impacts of increased consumption of sugary drinks for a new ad campaign.

Rival trade groups have hit out at the promotional campaign they say over simplifies the cause of obesity by directly linking the condition to soft drink intake, suggesting instead that consumer choice is a vital part of maintaining hydration.

However, citing analyst data finding a seven per cent fall in bottled water sales across Britain last year, the NHC claimed that almost three quarters of falling demand was due to consumers turning to sweetened soft drink alternatives.

“Rather than turning on the tap, people are turning to sugary drinks, and the switching equates to pouring an extra 1,700 tonnes of sugar and 6.8 billion calories into the nation's diet,” stated the organisation.

Amidst environmental criticisms of bottling water as a product that is already available from taps, the industry is taking the initiative to compare research into the health impacts of water to other soft drink products.

Research backing

The NHC pointed to recent findings by researchers at the School of Public Health in New Orleans, which suggest weight loss may be more susceptible to beverage consumption than food intake.

The report claimed that dropping a single serving a day of higher sugar drinks could amount to a weight reduction of 2.5 pounds in 18 months, according to the organisation.

Soft drink concerns

While welcoming any moves to play up the impacts of bottled water on health, the British Soft Drink Association (BSDA), which represents various beverage segments in the country, said it was disappointed that higher sugar drinks had been attacked to do so.

BSDA spokesperson Liz Bastone claimed that directly linking higher sugar soft drinks to obesity was a case of targeting one of a vast number of factors such as physical activity and overall diet related to onset of the condition.

Bastone added that it members actively sought to provide a wide balance of products to meet government-set standards on hydration and nutrition.

“Fruit juice counts as one of the government’s recommended daily portions of fruit and vegetables and beverages such as sports drinks offer additional functional benefits,” she stated. “[About] 61 per cent of soft drinks are now low calorie or no added sugar and low calorie and diet drinks make a helpful contribution to a calorie-controlled diet.”

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