‘More work needed’: Australian soft drinks industry urged to ‘shift gears’ to hit 2025 sugar-reduction target

By Pearly Neo contact

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The Australian non-alcoholic beverage industry has been urged to ‘shift gears’ and up the ante in order to hit its 2025 sugar reduction pledge targets after its latest progress report revealed a ‘significant’ 7% reduction overall. ©ABCL
The Australian non-alcoholic beverage industry has been urged to ‘shift gears’ and up the ante in order to hit its 2025 sugar reduction pledge targets after its latest progress report revealed a ‘significant’ 7% reduction overall. ©ABCL

Related tags: Australia, sugar reduction, non-alcoholic, Drinks

The Australian non-alcoholic beverage industry has been urged to ‘shift gears’ and up the ante in order to hit its 2025 sugar reduction pledge targets after its latest progress report revealed a ‘significant’ 7% reduction overall.

The pledge was announced last June​, and the four main signatories to this that have been included in this report were Asahi Lifestyle Beverages, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coca-Cola Australia and PepsiCo Australia.

According to data from market research firm IBISWorld, Coca-Cola Amatil and Asahi together make up 68.6% of the Australian soft drinks manufacturing market (43.6% and 25% respectively), and 80% of the bottled water manufacturing industry (69.4% and 13.6% respectively).

The commitment covers all non-alcoholic beverages sold by the pledge signatories, from soft drinks and energy drinks to fruit juices, flavoured milks, bottled water and more.

“In this interim report, we showed that the total sugar reduction achieved across the industry was a significant 7%, calculated based on average grams of sugar per 100mL across all non-alcoholic beverage products sold by all pledge signatories from 2015 to 2018,” ​Australian Beverages Council Limited (ACBL) CEO Geoff Parker told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“The baseline used was from 2015, and the average sugar content in beverages sold by these companies back then was 6.02g per 100mL – in 2018, this has been reduced to 5.59g per 100mL, so a decrease of [0.43g or] 7%.”

The pledge stretches across the 10-year period from 2015 to 2025, by when the industry is supposed to achieve a 20% reduction in non-alcoholic beverages’ sugar content.

Come next year, the pledge timeframe will be halfway through, but it appears that at this rate, the progress is not quite sufficient to meet the target requirements. Responding to this observation, Parker agreed that ‘more work needs to be done’​ and highlighted some recommendations for the industry.

“These results are great, but more work needs to be done – maintaining status quo will not hit our 2025 targets, so companies need to shift gears and be more aggressive so as to move towards this,”​ he told us.

“Importantly, they need to increase low- and no-sugar product launches moving forward, dedicate more marketing and advertising to these, and reformulate existing products further in order to reduce sugar content.”

Major initiatives contributing to the decrease

Parker highlighted reformulation and the increase in sales volumes of low- or no-sugar varieties of drinks as two of the initiatives that had the most impact in driving the 7% decrease, amongst 10 actions undertaken to reduce sugar levels from 2015 to 2018 that were highlighted in the report.

“Although the initiatives listed in the report were undertaken at different levels by different signatory companies, these two in particular were significant contributors as they were implemented by all four of the main signatories,”​ he said.

Amongst the other initiatives, many were NPD and marketing-based. These included the introduction of more low- and no-sugar products in the market, ramping up the marketing and promotion for these, introducing smaller pack sizes, and having vending machines sell more of these products.

Others were standards-based, including a sugar content cap on all the existing brands in a company as well as any new recipes launched in Australia; or education-based, such as investing in improved nutritional literacy and promoting healthier choices in the community.

Moving forward

Progress reports on the pledge are expected to be announced annually, especially during its milestone years of 2020 and 2025, according to Parker.

“There are two major milestones to this pledge: The first is in 2020, where we will need to hit the 10% mark, and the second is in 2025 where we need to progress by a further 10% to hit the 20% mark,” ​he said.

“Major reports with full analysis will be done during these milestone years, but we also want to report annually on our progress with this pledge, so interim reports will continue to be made.”

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