The government has won the backing of a series of major UK suppliers for its new hybrid front-of-pack labelling system, with the world’s biggest drinks company, Coca-Cola, expected to be among the first recruits.
The PM is believed to be planning to personally unveil the new scheme - an amalgam of traffic-light health warnings and new “reference intake” guidelines, replacing GDAs - later this month.
Sources involved in negotiations told The Grocer several major companies had now decided to drop their long-running opposition to traffic lights, with all the leading supermarkets now behind the hybrid system.
The Department of Health (DH) will unveil backers under a new Responsibility Deal pledge, and insiders say a widespread take-up from suppliers will make regulation to fight obesity less likely.
A senior Coke source said a move to support the scheme was “very much a live issue for us, but no decision has been made.”
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman added: “We are committed to helping consumers make informed choices about what they drink. Coca-Cola was one of the first companies to introduce front-of-pack Guideline Daily Amounts in the UK in 2007.
“We believe in the importance and power of informed choice to meet individual dietary and lifestyle needs, and are committed to providing factual, meaningful and understandable ingredient and nutrition information about all of our products at Coca-Cola.”
Another leading Coke executive said it had become an “easy target” for the health lobby, which had set out to try to “de-normalise” consumption of fizzy drinks.
“At the moment, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are in the front line but it’s going to roll all over us and now is the time for the industry to be much more on the front foot,” he said.
In March, Coke launched a new anti-obesity advertising campaign in the UK, stressing the importance of exercise, and is running a multimillion campaign to promote its diet alternatives.
DH officials have been putting huge pressure on UK companies to sign up. The department is said to have had an “overbearing presence” at a recent Food and Drink Federation event attended by most of the UK’s big suppliers.
“It seemed like the world and his wife had been emailed by DH officials saying they were looking forward to talking to them at the event,” said one supplier source.
“It was literally as if we were being stalked.”