George Osborne’s sugar tax has been attacked by soft-drink makers and is “certain to cost jobs”.
“Sugar tax attacked by soft-drink makers” is the headline in The Financial Times (£), which says industry protests it has been singled out and that the levy is more likely to cause job losses than make children less obese. FDF director general Ian Wright said it would lead to “less innovation and product reformulation, and for some manufacturers is certain to cost jobs”. While, Gavin Partington, director-general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said it was unfair to single out the industry as it had made more progress on cutting sugar than other food products had.
The Guardian also reflects on the “mixed response” to the news, saying the Chancellor’s two-tier levy on soft drinks was welcomed by health campaigners but condemned by drinks industry.
The Daily Mail said soft drink makers have seen their shares hammered after George Osborne surprised the industry with a new tax on drinks with added sugar, which it said was “a move that means some could pass the cost on to consumers with price hikes”. The Times (£)
The Telegraph’s Allister Health is typically unimpressed by the Chancellor’s “cynical attempt to embrace populism”. He writes: “[Osborne] is relaxed about those who wolf down Creme Eggs or live off hamburgers but angry at those who have the temerity to enjoy the odd glass of lemonade, unless of course it was produced by a tiny start-up… If I were a restaurant business or food producer, I would be thinking twice about investing too much in this country.”
“The Budget’s sugar tax is half-baked”, writes Tim Harford in The Financial Times (£), noting that “It seems strange to take the view that only soft drinks pose a risk”. “A broad-based tax on sugar itself would have been simpler, braver and far more effective, but Mr Osborne wanted his Budget to leave voters with a sweeter taste in the mouth.”
The other major announcement for the industry from yesterday’s budget was the reformulation of business rates. “Retailers complain that Osborne has not done enough to help high streets”, writes The Guardian, adding: “Retailers have warned that an overhaul of the controversial business rates system that will lead to a £7bn tax cut for small businesses is not enough to help high streets across the country.”
The Guardian also writes that councils are bracing themselves for more cuts and financial uncertainty after George Osborne announced major changes to business rates in the budget. Last autumn, the chancellor announced plans to allow councils to retain the £26bn a year they raise from business rates.
But The Daily Mail notes there was one important victory in the industry’s “battle to overhaul the archaic rates system on property”. The most welcome element was switching, from 2020, the annual indexation of the rates from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the paper said.
Elsewhere, Asda has confirmed plans to cut up to 500 jobs in stores and 250 at its head office in Leeds as the retailer battles to protect profits while sales slide. The supermarket chain is to close staff canteens in all stores and axe some shopfloor services such as photo processing and pizza-making as part of a turnaround plan called Project Renewal. (The Guardian)
Carlsberg’s new chief executive disappointed investors as the Danish brewer laid out a fresh strategy with few concrete targets. Cees ‘t Hart, the former head of a Dutch dairy company who has been in charge of Carlsberg since June, sought to put his stamp on the world’s fourth-largest brewer by volume on Wednesday with his presentation of its strategy up until 2022. (The Financial Times £)
An insatiable appetite for Minions has driven sales and pre-tax profits higher at Finsbury Foods, one of Britain’s largest bakers Finsbury Foods. (The Telegraph)
Britons will soon have to share Mr Kipling’s “exceedingly good cakes” with the rest of the world. Premier Foods, which also produces Ambrosia Devon Custard, Sharwood’s sauces and Batchelors soups, has appointed Jette Andersen to spearhead its international expansion. (The Times £)
A move to ban the use of ecigarettes in public places in Wales has been defeated, amid criticism of the proposal from cancer charities which argued that the devices help smokers give up. (The Financial Times £)
AB InBev sold the largest euro-denominated corporate bond on Wednesday, joining a lengthening list of companies rushing to the market in the wake of the European Central Bank becoming a buyer of highly rated debt sold by companies. (The Financial Times £)
Scotland is facing a challenge to its title as the home of whisky from an unexpected rival: France. Although the country is more usually associated with wine and cognac, whisky is quickly becoming the national drink, according to a study by the Parisian retail consultants Bonial. (The Times £)