Australian beverage industry denies rumours of further lowering sugar targets to stave off tax threat

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

In view of soaring rate of diabetes and health problems, sugar reduction has become a hot topic in many countries. ©Getty Images
In view of soaring rate of diabetes and health problems, sugar reduction has become a hot topic in many countries. ©Getty Images
The Australian Beverages Council and Coco-Cola Amatil have refuted plans to further lower the amount of sugar in their products.

A press report in the country last week suggested that members of the council, including Coca-Cola Amatil and PepsiCo, were discussing a 20% sugar reduction by 2020, in order to stave off a potential sugar tax.

In response to FoodNavigator-Asia’s queries, the Australian Beverages Council denied any involvement in such discussions.

“To our knowledge, there isn’t any 20% sugar reduction commitment by 2020. The Australian Beverages Council is not involved in a 20% sugar reduction commitment by 2020,” ​the council said.

In the same vein, Coco-Cola Amatil reiterated to us that their goal remains at the overall sugar reduction of 10% (from 2016 levels) across all products sold by 2020.

It stated that sugar level in Classic Coke will not change. However, there has been sugar reduction of up to 26% for a few products.

For instance, it had lowered the amount of sugar in Lift by 23% (from about 10 teaspoons of sugar in each can to eight), Sprite by 26%, "Blue" Powerade by 20% and Deep Spring by 26%.

Pending sugar tax in Australia?

Alison Watkins, chief executive of Coca-Cola Amatil, told Australian Financial Review BOSS that sugar reduction was something the  industry “must do”​ if it does not want to end up with more regulations.

“First and foremost it is about giving consumers more choice. It will also have the added benefit that it should reinforce for the major political parties that there isn’t a need to have a sugar tax.”

Earlier this year, the Australian Medical Association attempted to reignite calls for sugar tax, explaining that the tax was a “matter of priority” to overcome obesity and related cardiovascular illnesses.

However, Australia’s coalition government last month reassured that there would not be a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)​ after the next election.

A panel set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) also said on 1st​ June that authorities need not necessarily impose​ sugar taxes, but could collaborate with the industry on solutions against non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Sugar tax around the world

There are currently 28 countries which have introduced an SSB tax, with Britain the latest addition in April this year.

Asian countries which have introduced sugar tax include the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Brunei.

Others have preferred to adopt a pro-business approach, such as Hong Kong, where the authorities have introduced a new food and beverage labelling system.

However, they recently signalled that a sugar tax will become an option​ if “all else fails” ​in its fight against NCDs.

On the other hand, an Australian trial had shown that sugar tax encourages 'healthier purchases'​ without excessively hitting retailer revenues.

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