SYDNEY, RAW – Australia’s biggest soft drink makers, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have pledged to cut industry-wide sugar use by a fifth over seven years to curb obesity and fend off a sugar tax.
But the companies won’t be removing excess sugar from their existing range, rather introducing and promoting new lower-sugar products and reducing serving sizes.
Australia has the fifth-highest rate of obesity in the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a health condition that can exacerbate problems from diabetes to heart disease.
Beverage producers in Australia have already seen some consumers switch away from sugary drinks because of health concerns and they have pledged the reduction as authorities press for a sugar tax similar to one introduced in Britain in April.
‘We think this is a step in the right direction,’ said Geoff Parker, chief executive officer of the Australian Beverages Council, the main body representing non-alcoholic drink makers, an industry which generates A$5 billion in annual revenue.
‘We’re certainly encouraging other sectors of the food supply, and indeed other categories to join with us to reduce sugar across the portfolio to help tackle what is a really a complex problem and that is obesity.’
Companies will aim for a 10 per cent reduction in total sugar per 100 millilitres in their drinks by 2020 and a 20 per cent reduction by 2025, achieved via a combination of recipe modification and increasing sales of low-sugar beverages, the Beverages Council said.
The World Health Organisation said last year drinking fewer sweet drinks was the best way to curb excessive weight and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, although fat and salt in processed foods were also to blame.
It has pressed for governments to tax sugar.