Tesco announced earlier this week that it would become the first retailer to cut added sugars by 5% incrementally a year in all of its own-label soft drinks.
Action on Sugar (AoS) welcomed Tesco’s announcement and urged health secretary Jeremy Hunt to enforce the strategy across the whole of the food and drink industry.
Allowing the food and drink industry to police itself was not working, AoS chairman Professor Graham MacGregor said. “Jeremy Hunt can no longer ignore the fact that the current nutrition policy … is not working.
“The UK requires the implementation of this coherent strategy, starting by setting incremental sugar reduction targets for soft drinks across the whole sector.
What Tesco is doing:
- Removing all added sugar from its children’s own-label drinks
- Reformulating own-label full sugar products
- Working towards the removal of all added sugar from its mainstream squash
- Focus more on water, squash and flavoured water to promote healthier lives
“Incremental, unobtrusive reformulation is the key way of reducing calories across all sweetened drinks,” he added.
“Merely having the option of ‘diet’ or ‘no sugar’ products does not work, particularly for the most socially deprived.”
Reducing sugar in consumers’ diets gradually would allow them to get used to lower sweetness levels without noticing, he added.
This method had been pushed by Consensus Action on Salt and Health to reduce the amount of salt in foods, according to MacGregor.
Salt intake in the UK fell by 15% between 2001 and 2011, with most supermarkets making a 20–40% reduction in their products over the same period.
‘40% reduction in all foods’
MacGregor added: “This is the start of a coherent reformulation programme that will result in a 40% reduction in all food and drinks with added sugars.
“This reduction in calorie intake will reverse or halt the obesity epidemic and will also have a significant impact in reducing the burden of chronic disease.”
However, British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington defended the sector, which he claimed had already managed to make major sugar reductions.
“Since 2012, there’s been a 7.3% reduction in average calorie content across the soft drinks category, thanks to the efforts of major companies in the sector and retailers.”
Meanwhile, Tesco announced plans to use average nutrient profiles of foods within shoppers’ baskets to inform its new product development.
The move would also provide targeted health eating advice and marketing strategies to benefit consumers.