Fair play to Tesco. It may be in a pickle but it doesn’t lack ambition. Like third-term governments languishing in the polls, it still has enough disparate ministries and hidden talent to be working on a smartphone, challenging the Amazon online marketplace, and revolutionising its checkouts. Tesco fears no-one.
“My challenge to the industry: look to your laurels and dial down the sweetness”
Adam Leyland, Editor
Its latest target is the soft drinks industry, ie Coca-Cola, Suntory, PepsiCo etc, so not exactly soft touches. As we revealed last week, it’s called on them to reformulate certain drinks to eliminate added sugar, but it’s actually going further, looking to eradicate artificial sweeteners.
In other words, Tesco wants to re-educate the British palate via the soft drinks fixture.
It’s not clear if this is a personal crusade by its soft drinks buying team, or part of a systematic campaign by Tesco that will sooner or later see it demanding reformulation in confectionery, ice cream, yoghurts and desserts.
Either way, I applaud Tesco’s actions. And though I deplore some of the below-the-belt tactics of its strategic partner Action on Sugar, I also believe its challenge to the industry to lower sugar levels is not only reasonable, it’s eminently achievable. Not in all cases, nor for every product. And I’m not saying reformulation is going to fix the obesity crisis on its own. Obesity is caused primarily by overconsumption, rather than consumption per se.
But I don’t think consumers would even notice if you reduced the amount of sugar in a box of Frosties by 10%. It would still be incredibly sweet. Ditto yoghurts. As Aldi might say: my child likes Petits Filous fromage frais (12.2g sugar/100g). He also likes Plum Baby fromage frais (7.7g sugar/100g).
This week’s Own Label-Food & Drink Awards also support the view that food and drink manufacturers are guilty of sometimes over-sweetening products, with consumers praising a number of the winners precisely because they were “not too sweet” (p44-52). Even small cuts in sugar can make a difference in the war on obesity. And instead of looking at artificial sweeteners, why not just try dialling down the sweetness?