The pledge builds on a 2006 policy to not sell any beverages in primary schools or advertise to children under 12.
The new commitment for secondary schools is being introduced across the 28 European Union member countries, with complete implementation planned for the end of 2018. From then onwards, UNESDA members will only provide no and low calorie soft drinks to secondary schools.
Members of UNESDA include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Red Bull, Suntory Beverage & Food Europe, Britvic and Refresco B.V.
Efforts predicted to reach 40 million young people
In 2006 UNESDA members committed to not sell any soft drinks in primary schools. With auditing done by external consultants such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, it reports 95% compliance with this pledge, covering around 28 million pupils.
The new voluntary move for secondary schools will cover around 50,000 secondary schools and more than 40 million young people, says UNESDA. Only no and low calories soft drinks will be sold in these schools, which typically cover students aged 11-18.
In Europe, no and low calorie soft drinks are defined as those that contain 0-20kcal per 100ml (Nutrition Claims Annex of Regulation (EC) 1924/2066).
UNESDA also says it recognizes water must ‘remain the foremost drink available for schoolchildren’.
Announcing the new commitment this morning, UNESDA says: “This initiative responds to the changing food environment and acknowledges that special care is required in schools.
"The soft drinks sector has taken a lead in responsible policies in schools and towards children: for over a decade UNESDA members have not advertised any of their products to children under 12 and soft drinks have been completely taken out of primary schools.”
Dan Sayre and Nikos Koumettis on behalf of The Coca-Cola Company in Europe said: “Removing sales of added-sugar soft drinks from secondary schools across Europe is the latest significant step that our industry is taking to help people of all ages make informed and responsible beverage choices while creating healthy food environments for children and adolescents.
“Coca-Cola is pleased to have been actively supporting this journey over the last decade by first removing all beverages from primary schools and today further extending that commitment, and is proud to be part of our industry’s wider effort to reduce added sugars by 10% across our portfolio by 2020.”
Cesar Melo, Senior Vice President Categories and Franchises Europe Sub-Saharan Africa & President Sub-Saharan Africa, said on behalf of PepsiCo: “Children and adolescents are a special audience that needs particular attention and we are fully aware of our industry’s role in enabling young consumers to make healthy choices. We very much applaud that the commitment that our company made several years ago is today being embraced by the whole sector. As such, it will have a lasting positive effect on a great many people’s diets.”