Sugar tax gives us an opportunity to be responsible

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Sir, Friday saw the start of the widely debated soft drinks sugar tax. Whether consumers, manufacturers or retailers will be forced to absorb or offset the extra cost, time will tell. Equally it’s too early to say how consumers will react to reformulation attempts that, in some cases, are changing the taste profiles of long-time favourites. Shareholders will be watching with keen interest.

Sugar Levy

The industry needs to take the current wave of media interest to provoke wider positive change. First and foremost, this tax ‘penalises’ those who don’t comply. Yet why doesn’t the Treasury and government also ‘incentivise’? Other countries have differing VAT levels. Why not introduce a lower VAT rate for healthy, natural, nutritional products?

Recent consumer media interviews also brought home to me the stark reality that consumers are still utterly confused by nutritional guidelines and RDAs. Industry experts and wider authorities have to find a better, clearer, simpler alternative to complement or replace the likes of the traffic light system.

As an industry we need to become more responsible, especially in our marketing - we are not being as transparent and consumer-centric as we should be. Look at those products that shout about being ’fat free’ but which contain huge amounts of sugar.

I also cannot help but feel the soft drinks industry has been a bit victimised. All food and drink categories need to see the same amount of scrutiny and interrogation so we can bring wider positive change.

Giles Brook, food & drink industry lifer, CEO and investor

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