How will the food industry respond to the proposed sugar tax?
It’s fair to say that some elements of the food industry have taken something of a battering in recent times. With the WHO (World Health Organisation) highlighting the link between processed meat and cancer, and Jamie Oliver’s campaign against sugar, it seems that the ‘treats’ industry, which has long enjoyed a sweet-toothed market, may be getting squeezed.
MPs are backing a tax on sugary drinks, as well a proposed crackdown on marketing and advertising for sugary products, including the removal of cartoons often used on the packaging of products such as yoghurts and children’s drinks.
This of course, is much to the chagrin of the food and drinks industry, who argue that taxes will be unfair on consumers, and punish the least affluent in society.
However, instead of opposing the taxes, a smarter approach would be for food brands to support the national appetite for healthier eating. Most drinks brands have sugar-free options, which would be tax-free (though there are arguments about the health implications of these too).
Also, the products that are unashamedly sugary – such as cakes and biscuits – would also benefit from offering lower sugar options. Just as a whole new market has been borne out of gluten and egg free diets, savvy brands can bolster their healthy treat credentials with some reduced sugar varieties.
And of course, those brands that just won’t taste good without ladles of sugar should rethink their market position to what they once were – treats. And that is the real bugbear and the problem behind childhood obesity and the state of our teeth.
What was once a treat, is now an (almost) everyday luxury. Many tube station in London have cupcake carts, enticing you to grab something sweet for the journey home, dessert places and ice-cream parlours have popped up in abundance, and every supermarket has point-of-sale offers for cakes and sweets, while fruit and vegetable – rarely promoted – remains in its green aisle. Aldi is one of the few supermarkets that champions and actively encourages the consumption of fruit with its ‘Super 6’ offer.
Crucially, being seen to be part of the solution, rather than problem, will stop brands from incurring the wrath of Jamie Oliver and the sugar taxman.