Anti-sugar campaign hits sports drinks and juices

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

The BSDA says fruit juice consumers have been buying less and in some cases have switched to other soft drinks
The BSDA says fruit juice consumers have been buying less and in some cases have switched to other soft drinks

Related tags Soft drinks Soft drink

Sales of sports drinks and fruit juices continue to plunge in what looks like a consumer reaction to concerns raised by anti-sugar campaigners.

In the 52 weeks to the end of January, volume sales of juice fell by 11%, the highest annual drop in any soft drinks category, claimed market analyst IRI. The trend saw volumes drop by more than 100M litres, from 915M litres to 814M litres.

That was closely mirrored by the 10.7% decline in volume sales of sports energy drinks charted by IRI over the same period. Volumes in that category slid from 147.3M to 131.6M, it said.

At the same time, sales of all forms of water, apart from flavoured sparkling water, had increased significantly, the company said.

Fortified water, containing added healthy ingredients, and flavoured still water achieved the biggest growth, it claimed. Sales of the former grew 71.2%, albeit from a small base of 8M litres to 13.6M litres, while sales of the latter rose by 17%, from 159.7M litres to 186.8M litres.


Tim Eales, IRI director of strategic insight, attributed the sales falls to campaigns warning about the amount of sugar in juices and sports drinks.

“People are beginning to get the message,”​ Eales told “This is something I’m putting the decline down to.”

Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), told this site: “Fruit juice consumers have been buying less and in some cases switched to other soft drinks, primarily bottled waters.

“It's also possible that the misguided campaign against sugar has led some consumers to reduce the role of juice in their five-a-day – unfortunate, given that government figures show the vast majority of adults and children are not reaching the five-a-day target.

“Sports drinks sales have been falling over the last few years. However, as a niche product this is to be expected in less affluent years. Many sports drinks consumers may have switched to bottled water which has had yet another remarkable year.”

Meanwhile, the BSDA has defended the industry against claims it had to do more to cut calories in soft drinks.

Calorie reduction

Partington said: “The UK soft drinks industry has done more than any other sector to promote calorie reduction, through reformulation, smaller pack sizes and increased promotion of low and no calorie drinks – up by nearly 50% last year alone.

“It’s worth remembering that more than 60% of soft drinks now contain no added sugar.”

He was responding to claims by the Local Government Association (LGA) that manufacturers should be going “further and faster”​ to reduce sugar in popular drinks.

The call came as latest NHS figures revealed that it was spending more than £1.5M an hour on diabetes, and that more than 3.5M children were now classed as overweight or obese.

Research from the LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, found some cans of fizzy drink contained up to twice the World Health Organisation’s recommended daily sugar limit.

Fruit juices, ginger beers

Some fruit juice drinks and ginger beers commonly sold in supermarkets contained more sugar than cola drinks, it claimed.

According to the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey data, children under 10 years old and nearly a third of 11–18 year-olds get almost a fifth of their sugar intake from soft drinks.

The LGA is also calling for some of the VAT raised on sugary drinks, sweets, crisps, and takeaway food to be invested in leisure centres, exercise classes and free swimming to help curb obesity.

“It is wholly unacceptable for one normal-sized can of soft drink to contain 12 teaspoons of sugar – double the recommended daily limit,”​ said Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

“In many cases, people are unaware of exactly how much sugar these fizzy drinks contain. Manufacturers must also provide clearer, larger and more prominent labelling which spells out the sugar content.”

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