Tesco is preparing a radical shake-up of its soft drinks fixture - and called on drinks suppliers to slash sugar levels to stave off regulation from the government.

The Grocer has learned that Tesco will increase the percentage of no-added-sugar drinks it offers from 49% to 55% by the end of 2013.

Tesco will also launch two new ranges - More Drinks and Little More - across more than 500 stores from 24 June.

“We see this [category review] not just as a way to avoid regulation, but as a potentially exciting growth area for the industry,” Tesco soft drinks buying manager David Beardmore told The Grocer.

“We see this [category review] not just as a way to avoid regulation, but as a potentially exciting growth area for the industry”

David Beardmore, Tesco

More Drinks includes four different products with added vitamin B, C, D or multivitamins. The separate kids’ range, A Little More, will offer three varieties with added vitamin C or D, or multivitamins. And the own-label npd follows the launch of a ‘3-a-day’ smoothie earlier this month.

“Having Tesco behind this is a huge breakthrough,” said Steve Norris, founder of the More or Less Drinks Company, which is producing the new range.

“With the best will in the world, a company like Coca-Cola, which has a very good vitamin water product, is going to be limited in how far it goes down that road because how does that sit with its core product, Coca-Cola?”

Nichols, which produces Vimto, is also working with Tesco on producing reduced-sugar ranges and is set to add its signature to the Responsibility Deal commitment to slash calories.

“We are working with Tesco and they are walking the walk as well as talking the talk on this,” Marnie Millard, CEO of Nichols said.

Speaking at the Soft Drinks Industry Conference, held in London this week Beardmore said: “The soft drinks industry has to be more collaborative and self-regulate before we are regulated against.”

Asda also called for urgent action among suppliers to come up with drinks that are less harmful to children.

Asda soft drinks manager Steve Newbould accused suppliers of letting down “Asda mums” with the unhealthiness of kids drinks.

“Why are we still seeing kids’ lunchbox items with extra sugar in, why aren’t we taking it out?” he said. “The lunchbox offer doesn’t meet our customers’ needs.”

Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola GB and Ireland, told the conference it was considering signing up to the government’s plans for a hybrid front-of-pack labelling system.

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