Despite the soft drink sector’s work to reduce sugar and calories in its products in recent years, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne revealed a tax on water-based sugary drinks last week.
Britvic understood the sentiment behind the sugar levy – to combat obesity – but did not consider it a solution, said Graham at the launch of Britvic’s annual soft drinks report.
“It was a surprise,” he added. “We were disappointed by the announcement of the drinks levy in the budget. We recognise that there is an obesity issue. It’s real and it’s going to have an effect in terms of our future and it’s something the country needs to address.
‘Not going to solve the obesity problem’
New drink launch:
Britvic will launch a new flavour of its functional drinks range Purdey’s. The new drink will be called Purdey’s Edge.
“Our view is that a single focus on sugar and a focus on soft drinks is not going to solve the obesity problem. The only way to solve the problem [we believe] is to take a holistic approach.”
The soft drinks giant was already working to reduce the calorie content of its drinks by 20% before 2020 and had so far made significant progress, added Graham.
It would also relaunch its Drench brand of drinks in April, which would be in line with government targets of less than 5g of sugar per 100ml, he said.
Britvic would also relaunch its functional drink Purdey’s Rejuvenate and Graham revealed for the first time that a new drink called Purdey’s Edge would be out soon.
‘Engage with the government’
Of the future and the sugar levy, Graham said: “We will work and engage with the government. We are not clear what that format will take, but we will engage.”
Meanwhile, trade bosses warned last week that pubs should not pay the price of the sugar levy, while manufacturers feared the tax would hit innovation in the category.
A tax on soft drinks could raise up to £520m and would likely force manufacturers to reduce sugar content in a bid to combat the UK’s growing obesity epidemic, the Government said.
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The Chancellor has indicated there will be a consultation on its [the sugar levy’s] introduction and the ALMR will be looking to liaise the Government to ensure that additional costs are not passed on to pubs and bars.”