The study led by the former president of the Australia and New Zealand Obesity Society Professor Anna Peeters, now of Deakin University, was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Porto.
YMCA Victoria, the Australian state of Victoria’s largest aquatic and recreation provider, recently committed to removing all full sugar soft drink from all its centres, except full sugar sports drinks.
This study aimed to determine the impact of the removal of soft drinks from a sample of these leisure centres in Melbourne on sales of unhealthy drinks and of all drinks.
Monthly sales data from January 2013 to May 2016 was collected from nine YMCA centres with a kiosk or cafe. All centres had removed full sugar soft drinks by December 2015. Drinks were classified using state government nutritional guidelines as ‘green’ (best choice – water, sparkling water with/without sugar free flavour, small reduced fat milk, small reduced fat chocolate milk, tea or coffee with skimmed milk), ‘amber’ (diet soft drinks or diet sport drinks, fruit juices of 99% fruit juice in servings of 250ml or less) or ‘red’ (full sugar soft drinks or sport drinks, fruit juices of more than 250ml).
A statistical analysis was conducted to determine the effect of the policy, adjusting for various factors including seasonal effects. Analysis was conducted on changes to the volume of ready-to-drink beverages, as well as dollar sales value of all drinks.
The researchers found that sales volume (ml) of the ‘red’ ready-to-drink beverages significantly decreased by 55% and sales of ‘green’ category (healthy) drink volume increased by 24%, with no overall change in ‘amber’ drinks. Interms of numbers of drinks sold green drinks rose by 13% and red decreased by 38%. The dollar value of all beverages sold did not change after the intervention compared to the pre-intervention period.
Professor Peeters said: “This innovative policy had its intended effect of reducing purchase of unhealthy drinks, without negatively impacting on overall drinks sales. The development of healthy yet business-friendly outcome measures is important to support the large-scale expansion of such policies.”
The YMCA is now focussing on removing sugar-containing sports drinks from its establishments.
The authors say the next steps in their research will be to include further YMCA centres, and also work with YMCA on studies to reduce the amount of confectionary available, as well as replacing all full-sugar sports drinks with the diet sugar-free alternatives over the next year.