Soft drinks makers’ nutrition schemes keeps focus on kids

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

As European beverage makers reassess advertising and the availability of higher sugar drinks to young children, the industry says it will not extend the focus to older demographics besides already providing a wider variety of products.

Sam Rowe, a spokesperson for the Union of European Beverages Associations (UNESDA)​said that drink makers in the bloc had long been providing lower sugar alternatives to carbonated products for all ages.

However, Rowe added that, while working to commitments made back in 2006 to not advertise to young children as well as re-branding school vending machines, UNESDA did not believe extending similar schemes to other age groups would be effective. The requirements were outlined under the EU Platform on Diet,​Physical Activity and Health.

Nutrition plans

The comments come as American beverage groups this week relayed their progress to the country’s congress on similar commitments relating to child nutrition outlined under the National School Beverage Guidelines.

Claims from manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic on efforts to limit the access of young people to more sugary and higher calorie drinks has been praised in part by some nutrition and health organisations.

Some fears persist though that a wider focus on more health-targeted products is still needed in schools across various markets like the UK.

Drink commitments

Susan Neely, head of the American Beverage Association (ABA), told a US senate committee linked to diets that it would continue in attempts to cut calories supplied in schools through drinks, having already reduced the content available to grade level children by 58 per cent.

UNESDA claims that it members were also working towards similar objectives by barring them from advertising directly through media targeted at young children or with an audience of more than 50 per cent under 16 year olds.

Along with guidelines for advertising, the association also requires members to ensure no beverage vending machines are present in primary and junior schools, while also offering a selection of waters and juices at education establishments for teenagers.

Rowe said that aside from ongoing commitments in certain markets, such as removing brand names from drinks machines, its initiatives were focused on children it says are less able to make balanced decisions about health.

In looking at the potential for wider rollouts, the spokesperson said that the association would find it difficult to try similar schemes at adult level, were consumers were better informed about health and diets.

Nutritionist view

While encouraged, in general, by the conduct of drink manufacturers in schools, Kathryn Styles, a nutritionist for the UK-based charity Health Education Trust, said drink groups needed to do more in offering milk and nutritious products.

Speaking on a UK level in particular, Styles suggested that companies were taking steps in the right sort of direction, but believed that they were acting solely on legal requirements set out by School Food Standards.

These requirements banned the sale of drinks that weren’t water, fruit juice or milk-based products in the UK.

Styles claimed that restricting carbonated or ‘fizzy pop’ drinks would not alone help drive improvements in the nutritional intake of school children.

“Replacing ‘fizzy pop’ with copious amounts of fruit juice is not the way to go as it may be providing too many calories, therefore we are pleased with the novel water and pure fruit juice combinations that are coming on the market filling the gap in schools left by ‘soft drinks’,”​ she stated. “Chilled milk & some milk drinks are a very nutritious drink for growing children, and we hope to see an increase in sales of these products in schools over time.”

Related topics Markets Soft drinks Regulation

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