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Beyond Sugar Taxes: Alternative Approaches to Sugar Reduction in Global Soft Drinks

23 March 2022 by Erwin Henriquez, Euromonitor International















(Photo: Burst)

While taxes on sugary drinks are generally a more recent trend, Finland started levying an excise duty on such products in 1940, and Norway first implemented a tax on soft drinks in 1981. Currently there are over 50 countries with taxes on the production, distribution or sale of sugar-sweetened beverages as a means of combating the potential adverse health effects of sugar. The mixed results of taxes on reducing sugar intake, however, have governments considering alternative approaches.

Evidence from a recent study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shows that combining written and graphic health messages (pictures) on the packaging of drinks is more effective than text-only warnings to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks.

Another study from Aberdeen University found that restrictions on promotions, ie, buy-one-get-one-free, are often more effective than taxation to reduce consumption. However, studies state that the efficacy of such measures depends on multiple other factors, and that sugar reduction should be seen as a multidimensional problem.

Marketing, merchandising and packaging will be the new frontline for sugar reduction

The global COVID-19 pandemic has consumers striving for health and wellbeing. According to Euromonitor International’s 2021 Health and Nutrition Survey, 28% of global survey respondents seek to avoid sugar through beverages. While taxation has been the primary approach over the last decade, public health regulators and companies are exploring three alternative strategies.

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