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The sugar tax – not sweet enough for anyone

Sugar Tax

The UK has this morning approved a long-mulled sugar tax.

But, at least for now, it will affect only producers of fizzy drinks and juices that have a high sugar content. Makers of other food and drink products have been invited – but are not obliged – to aim for a 20% drop in sugar content within five years. No curbs have been placed on advertising.

In Europe, a third of 11 year olds are overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organisation [1], and campaigners against child obesity in the UK are angry that the measures do not go far enough. But the British Soft Drinks Association is unhappy at the 4,000 job losses its industry may face, so it seems the levy hasn’t made many happy today.

Except, that is, the manufacturers and distributors of healthier alternatives, who stand to profit from today’s move.

In January, in anticipation of the levy, Marks and Spencer introduced a coconut water product, high in electrolytes. Cheaper alternatives are already on the shelves of most supermarket chains, including an offering from the Coca Cola subsidiary, Innocent. As the price of its flagship pop rises, sales of its Innocent product family should help to restore the balance in the company fortunes.

Coca Cola rival, Pepsi, owns O.N.E coconut water, so it’s clear that those most likely to suffer from the tax have already made their contingency plans.

The new generation of low-sugar smoothies are obvious winners, too, and one to watch could be Suavva, whose core ingredient is the highly nutritious cacao pulp, taken from the bean used to make chocolate.

So far, chocolate remains unpunished by the sugar tax. While stopping short of recommending it as good for our health, most doctors and nutritionists accept that chocolate is useful as a quick-release energy source, and a more appealing iron supplement for most children than liver or spinach.

Even products with a low cocoa content, like milk chocolate, are more likely in the UK to have that deficiency made up for with dairy fat than with sugar. So sales of chocolate and low-sugar chocolate drinks may surge too.

Vegetable juices are growing in popularity for the numerous detoxification, digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits provided by chlorophyll. Most people who drink vegetable juice regularly invest in a pulveriser, so sales of these could rise in weeks to come.

As diets change and people take in less sugar in their drinks, their bodies may crave sweetness in other forms, so honey and other natural sweeteners, such as molasses and maple syrup, are likely to find their way into industrial bakery products.

And with only 128 shopping days left, it seems reasonable to expect a swathe of new sugar-free cookery books to be on the shelves in time for Christmas.

[1] World Health Organization