More than half of Brits support sugar tax... but will it work?

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This article is part of our 2016 Soft Drinks Digital Feature.

Fifty six per cent of Brits support the sugar levy on soft drinks announced by the chancellor George Osborne this month, up from 45% a year ago, research for The Grocer has revealed. 

But the poll also casts doubt over how effective the levy, which would increase the average price of a can of standard Coke by more than 15% if it were passed on to drinkers, would be in discouraging the consumption of high sugar drinks. 

“Interestingly, the number of people thinking that a sugar tax on soft drinks is a good idea has increased since last year, although it seems nearly of people half would be willing to accept the current 15% price increase,” says Tania Page, interim head of CPG and retail at Harris Interactive, which polled 2,028 consumers on behalf of The Grocer. “This begs the question: will the sugar tax really deter people from drinking sugary soft drinks?”

The price of a can of Coke would need to increase by 50% to £1.04 to deter 24% of drinkers from buying; 15% would be deterred by a 20% increase to 83p; 13% would be deterred by a 10% increase to 76p and just 9% would be put off by a 5% increase to 72p. Sixteen per cent of Brits say no price increase would discourage them from buying high sugar soft drinks. The findings lend weight to industry claims that the tax will have limited impact on the obesity crisis. 

“When it comes to the sugar tax what we dispute is the eveidence that it works,” Coca-Cola Enterprises general manager Leendert den Hollander told The Grocer the day after the sugar levy was announced. “If the aim is to reduce significantly and sustainably the number of calories people are taking in on a daily basis, there’s no proof in the world that this is an effective measure.” 


Do you support the sugar levy on high sugar drinks?
Yes, it’s a good idea56%56%57%50%55%53%58%61%
No, it’s a bad idea29%31%26%29%27%34%33%25%
I don’t know15%12%17%21%18%14%9%14%
Which, if any, of these types of drinks should be taxed?   
Energy drinks (i.e. Monster, Relentless, Red Bull)60%58%62%55%55%56%64%65%
Carbonated soft drinks, excluding diet varieties (i.e. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Fanta)52%50%54%44%46%49%54%59%
Sports drinks (i.e. Lucozade Sport, Gatorade)45%42%48%28%36%38%50%57%
Squashes and cordials (excluding no added sugar varieties) (i.e. Ribena, Vimto, Robinsons)28%26%29%12%18%21%30%40%
Luxury hot drinks - (i.e. Hot chocolate, mocha)23%26%21%12%18%19%22%33%
Smoothies (i.e. Innocent, own label smoothies)21%22%20%9%17%18%22%29%
Fruit Juices (i.e. Tropicana, own label fresh orange juice, Copella, Innocent)19%21%18%11%15%16%20%26%
None of these drinks should be taxed29%30%28%28%27%31%30%28%
The average price of a 330ml can of sugary carbonated soft drink is 69p. What price increase would discourage you from buying it?
69p is too much22%24%21%13%21%18%23%29%
72p (a 5% increase)9%9%9%11%12%10%5%8%
76p (10% increase)13%14%12%10%13%16%12%13%
83p (20% increase)15%14%16%16%15%16%15%15%
£1.04 (50% increase)24%23%25%36%25%24%27%18%
No price increase would discourage me from buying it16%15%17%14%14%16%18%18%
The average price of a 1.75 litre bottle of sugary carbonated soft drink is £1.86. What price increase would discourage you from buying it?
£1.86 is too much25%26%24%18%23%21%24%31%
£1.94 (a 5% increase)10%10%9%9%13%11%5%10%
£2.05 (10% increase)18%19%18%21%18%21%18%16%
£2.23 (20% increase)13%13%13%10%13%15%13%13%
£2.79 (50% increase)19%18%21%29%19%18%23%15%
No price increase would discourage me from buying it15%14%16%13%14%14%17%16%

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