The sweet stuff at the IFE.

23 March 2017

The hot topic at this week’s International Food & Drink Event (IFE 2017) was the Sugar Debate.

Industry professionals are up in arms about the new sugar levy but what will it mean for soft drinks manufacturers? Here are our key outtakes from the debate with food industry expert, Jane Milton, Richard Hall of Zenith Global and Tim Rycroft from the Food & Drink Federation:

1. Don’t isolate soft drinks

The new sugar levy is arguably not revolutionary. It’ll work in the same way as the tax on alcohol: As of April 2018, soft drinks with more than five grams per 100ml will be levied by an additional 18p per litre, while those with eight grams or more per 100ml will be taxed by an extra 24p. What is new is the targeting of the soft drinks sector in particular.

Tim’s opening comment summed up the panels view: “I don’t think the sugar levy is the solution – the industry is one of those taking the most action. Instead, I see it as a distraction.”

A distraction? Surely it’s helping manufacturers to focus on meeting their targets and geeing along what was already on the cards?

Well not according to Tim. He argues to tackle the real issue of childhood obesity we need to work together across the whole industry, from snacks to ready meals, soft drinks to alcohol, bread to confectionery, to evolve taste buds over time. After all, if taste buds and buying habits remain the same, surely people will simply fork out the extra pennies to get the drinks they really want?

The industry, often accused of ‘making everyone fat’, is now feeling the heat over reduced portion sizes

2. ‘Shrinkflation’ will be a good thing

Now we’re not ones for jargon so aren’t big fans of this term. But, as we bed in for the Brexit storm, the sugar debate is having an impact already on product sizes. Need we mention Toblerone? It’s a tough one - the industry, often accused of ‘making everyone fat’, is now feeling the heat over reduced portion sizes. Yet, the panel argues ‘shrinkflation’ is also being driven by the health agenda and war on sugar, so as long as brands communicate the message in the right way, shrinking packs can be a positive.

3. Marketing is fundamental

Sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, stevia, sucralose, aspartame. There’s lots of different types of sugar and sweeteners – some naturally occurring, some not. Brands need to make sure they keep their offering clear – does it have sugar or not? Does it include sweeteners or not? And what’s the calorie level? Offer choice, but not too much. And keep labelling clean and communication clear.

4. It all comes back to that old adage…

That’s right – you can’t beat a balanced diet and exercise. The debate naturally came to this conclusion. Our outtake? Those brands using exercise and sport in marketing, especially with grassroots campaigns, are leading the pack. It’s not a new idea – we’ve been doing it with our clients for years, but now more than ever, it’s vital for brands to be positioning themselves alongside sport.

5. Don’t forget the enjoyment of food & drink

At Mercieca we’re real foodies so we were reassured to hear Jane add: “People shouldn’t be afraid or fearful or feel guilty about eating certain foods – they should enjoy the food they eat. In the battle to tackle obesity, we must not lose sight of the role food and drink plays in our lives, our culture.”

If you’d like to hear more, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at [email protected]

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