Supermarket giant Tesco might seem an unlikely candidate to spark a “revolution” in the battle against obesity.
But that was the word used by the leader of campaign group Action on Sugar to greet Tesco’s plans for a targeted sugar reduction strategy, revealed by The Grocer today.
There has been so much hype and exaggeration in the war on sugar, the truths and falsehoods of the subject deserve health warnings all of their own.
But it is undeniable that when a retailer of Tesco’s scale sets sugar reduction targets on its entire soft drinks line up, representing almost a third of all UK sales, then the rest of the industry, fellow retailers and suppliers alike, will be forced to stand up and take notice.
Action on Sugar, sometimes guilty in the past of taking part in media hype over sugar, appears to have a strong argument when they claim that this development could be a landmark and pave the way for a wider series of industry targets - and not just in soft drinks either.
Despite the British Soft Drinks association, backed by fizzy drinks giants such as Coca Cola and PepsiCo, furiously denying that sugar is the new tobacco (going so far as to launch an official challenge against the draft SACN report) action on soft drinks appears inevitable.
But as BSDA boss Gavin Partington warned last week, other sectors where products are high in sugar can also expect to be ever more in the firing line.
However, with weeks to go before the final SACN report comes out, Tesco’s move shows that it will not necessarily be up to the Department of Health and government regulation to chart a path forward.
With a new Conservative government hugely reluctant to hit the industry with a wave of regulation after just a few weeks in power, the likes of Tesco may well be the ones that set the health agenda after all.