The Nielsen Sugar Tax 2017 Survey polled UK adults on 17-18 April and found that while almost eight in 10 people were aware of a potential new sugar tax, the vast majority "hugely misunderstood" that the tax only applies to soft drinks.
Not one of those surveyed correctly identified the tax as only applying to sugary soft drinks.
While two thirds thought it applied to sweets and sugared confectionery, 59% said chocolate, 57% biscuits and 56% cakes.
According to the research, most respondents believed it applied to at least four product categories, while 28% did not think it applied to soft drinks.
In terms of how a tax on soft drinks would affect people’s behaviour, the research revealed that 47% said it wouldn’t have any effect and 11% would switch to cheaper brands.
However, 23% said they would buy fewer soft drinks and 13% would stop buying them entirely.
The tax was expected to be more likely to affect younger soft drink consumers with 41% of 18 to 34-year-olds saying they would buy fewer or stop buying soft drinks, compared to 35% of 35 to 54-year-olds and 32% of people aged 55 and older.
Some 54% believe the tax would help fight obesity – with 18% thinking it should go further than just sugary soft drinks – while 46% don’t believe it will help.
“Currently, there’s a huge misunderstanding about which products the sugar tax affects, so when it comes in, the Government, manufacturers and retailers have an enormous education job on their hands to avoid unforeseen consequences beyond fizzy drinks,” said Sophie Jones, senior shopper analytics consultant at Nielsen.
“Most notably, in high-sugar categories where shoppers incorrectly think prices have gone up or, indeed, any other category where people may offset the higher price of fizzy drinks by buying less of other things.”