Sir: The launch of health campaign group Action on Sugar in January sparked a debate around sugars in the diet which continues to dominate headlines. In this debate we have seen science, policy and opinion merge, with studies of varying quality given equal footing and splashed across all media.

Although the balance of scientific evidence shows that sugars, like any other nutrient, can be enjoyed as part of a varied and balanced diet, a vocal minority persist in demonising this ingredient. The simple balanced diet and physical activity message has lost out to alarmist narratives, with the resulting impact on consumer education and public health unknown.

Joanna Blythman’s Second Opinion piece ‘Is there a sweet solution?’ (5 April, p23) offered an overview of the sugars and sweeteners category that was misleading and unhelpful.

Low-calorie sweeteners offer a useful tool for manufacturers to help their customers reduce their calorie intake while still enjoying a sweet taste. They are strictly regulated by the European Food Safety Authority, as are all food additives, meaning that consumers and manufacturers alike can have confidence in their safety in the diet.

Terry Jones, director of communications, Food and Drink Federation

Sugar debate is simplistic

Sir: ‘Is there a sweet solution?’ (5 April, p23) raised some crucial points. The notion of helping customers to evolve their palates away from sugar is a noble aim that will take years – and it is an extremely brave brand owner or retailer who pursues this at the expense of taste. But the reality is every supplier has a responsibility to remove sugar and artificial ingredients – or risk having their brands removed from shelf by retailers increasingly mindful of the need to be proactive on these issues.

At Freedrinks, we recognise the importance of the issues surrounding sugar and sweeteners and have worked hard to develop a soft drink that is low-calorie, low-sugar and free of artificials – but that doesn’t compromise on taste – with our premium soft drink Zeo.

It uses stevia to keep it low-sugar and low-calorie and is exactly the sort of product Blythman is calling for. But my view is that the current debate on sugar is too simplistic. We must explain what added sugar means versus natural sugar – and why drinking fruit juice in significant quantities is not actually very good for you and not the same as eating fruit.

If the soft drinks industry does not get a grip on the sugar issue, the government will – under pressure from various lobbies – force change upon it, a scenario we must avoid.

Martin Hall, CEO, Freedrinks

Shopping centre theatre

Sir: ‘The evolution of experiential marketing’ (29 March, p36) gives a timely reminder to shopping centres that we need to move with the times. The locations chosen were carefully thought out, but shopping centres would potentially have leveraged even better results for the brands. Is there a perception that it is too difficult to manage the logistical issues in shopping centres? If so, then a swift change of approach is required.

Experiential is constantly evolving and amplification is key – activity is sometimes more akin to a PR stunt than experiential. Shopping centres have captive audiences who are highly receptive to advertising messages and keen to be entertained by, and engage with, brands in this environment.  

But centres need to ensure they have the whole package. One critical component is a can-do attitude to encourage the best experiential activity into centres. Customers expect more than just retail – we need to work with brands and agencies to meet their needs.

Jackie Tracey, commercialisation manager at thecentre:mk

Faith in Zico’s future

Sir: In reference to ‘Coca-Cola makes cutbacks to Zico coconut water’s UK team’, (5 April, p59), I was surprised to see you had been able to identify a number of ‘industry sources’ to write the article yet basic factual information was incorrect. Our company is not called Euro Foods – it’s Euro Food Brands Ltd. I feel that before printing this, you could have had the decency to contact us for comment.

Our company has obtained listings for Zico in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Asda. It is clear that Vita Coco has achieved good results but I believe it is in the interest of the trade, and more importantly the consumer, to have choices.

Zico is a leading brand in America and Euro Food Brands remains confident in the brand, as does Coca-Cola, which continues to invest in the brand.

I would also like to point out that no redundancies have been made by Euro Food Brands to the team that manages Zico. In fact, we have recently invested in our team to help drive distribution.

Stephen Barlow, MD, Euro Food Brands