In Association with Britvic

Soft drinks industry levy: what drinks won't be taxed?

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Reformulation: some soft drinks companies have brought out no- or low-sugar alternatives
Reformulation: some soft drinks companies have brought out no- or low-sugar alternatives

Related tags Coca-cola Britvic soft drinks

A number of soft drinks are set to fall foul of the sugar levy, increasing their price considerably, but others have been reformulated to attract a lower levy or none at all. Here, we highlight some of the options available to licensees.

The soft drinks industry levy, sometimes called the sugar levy or the sugar tax, is not straightforward, but has layers that could be troublesome for pubs.

It is a tax that is split into two bands – the lower band imposes a cost of 18p per litre on drinks containing between 5g and 8g of sugar per 100ml.

The higher band imposes a cost of 24p per litre on drinks containing more than 8g of sugar per 100ml.

There are, however, exemptions to the levy, which includes milk-based drinks, chilled coffee drinks and pure fruit juices.


When it comes to Britvic-owned brands, 70% of the soft drinks company’s portfolio will be exempt from the levy, including R Whites Lemonade, Tango Orange, Pepsi Max and Robinsons, which have all been changed to lower the sugar content.

Britvic has also reformulated other products in order to provide alternatives to its full-sugar drinks, which will fall below the levy. These include Pepsi Max and 7Up Sugar Free.

What does the soft drinks industry levy mean for my business?

Join a special webinar presentation brought to you by Britvic Soft Drinks and The Morning Advertiser, following the recent Britvic Soft Drinks Summit, and find out what your customers and leading figures in the soft drinks industry think about the new levy, and its likely implications for the category in the pub trade in the future.

Sign up to our free webinar 

It also removed all added sugar from it’s Fruit Shoot brand in 2014 and, at the same time, configured reformulations for Lipton Ice Tea and juice drink Drench.

Drench also saw a change in April last year when Britvic announced the new offering would contain no artificial sweeteners, colours or flavourings but feature naturally sourced sweetener stevia.

In 2015, Britvic removed all sugar variants of Robinsons.


Schweppes provides a large range of mixers for spirits and cocktails and certain variants will be affected by the levy. Schweppes Soda Water, however, contains no sugar, so no levy will be incurred.

Irn Bru

Irn Bru maker AG Barr announced plans to substantially reduce the portfolio’s sugar content last March and it’s Irn Bru Sugar Free variant does exactly what it says on the tin, containing no sugar, as with Irn Bru Xtra.

Red Bull

When it comes to energy drinks, Red Bull will be in the higher tax band. However, there are no-sugar alternatives, such as Red Bull Sugarfree and Red Bull Zero Calories.

Monster Energy

The original Monster Energy format will fall into the higher levy band. However, like other brands, it has versions with less or no sugar, such as Monster Energy Absolutely Zero, which will attract no levy at all.


Lucozade’s owner, Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS), offers consumers two flavours that will be exempt from the tax – its orange and pink lemonade variants with 0.1g and 0.5g of sugar respectively, which were launched in March last year. 

The full Lucozade range – both core and Zero – will also be completely exempt. Lucozade Zero Original was launched at the beginning of this year so there are now three Zero variants.


LRS also owns Orangina, which offers consumers a low-sugar option – Orangina Light – that will also be levy free but the high sugar option is also exempt from the levy.


Ribena has been reformulated to ensure it will not be subject to the levy.


As with other other soft drinks companies, Vimto has a Zero option containing less than 0.5g of sugar per 100ml, which will be levy-free. The brand also carries Feel Good and a range of other products that are exempt from the levy.


Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has also taken steps to reformulate its brands to offer consumers choice.

While Coca-Cola Classic will fall into the levy, those wanting to choose a drink outside of the levy can turn to Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.

Fanta Orange is another brand with a levy-free option in its Fanta Zero, which has just 0.5g of sugar.

The same can be said for Dr Pepper. It offers Dr Pepper Zero, which is not subject to the levy.

However, this isn’t the only brand for which CCEP has a zero-sugar alternatives, with Sprite also falling into this category with Sprite Zero.

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