Pub diners ‘don’t want anything low sugar’

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sweet truth: the out-of-home sector has reduced its average sugar content across foods
Sweet truth: the out-of-home sector has reduced its average sugar content across foods

Related tags: Sugar

Pub chefs have told The Morning Advertiser that customer uptake on low-sugar versions of food has not been as enthusiastic as with drinks.

The out-of-home sector – which includes pubs, restaurants and cafés – has managed to reduce the average sugar content of its food by 4.9%, according to Government figures.  

Which foods have been made with less sugar?

The largest decreases in the out-of-home sector according to Government figures.

23.5% for yogurts and fromage frais

17.1% for breakfast cereals

15% for puddings

12.9% for ice creams, lollies and sorbets

9.1% for morning goods, such as pastries 

6.9% for cakes

Overall, there has been a reduction in the simple average sugar content from 26.8g/100g in 2017 to 25.5g/100g in 2018.

The statistics were revealed in a Public Health England report into the food and drink industry’s progress to reduce sugar levels.

It comes as part of the Government’s programme to encourage both the in-home and out-of-home industries to reduce sugar by 20% in certain food categories by 2020. 

The scheme focuses on foods that contribute the most sugar to children’s diets, such as cakes, breakfast cereals and confectionery.

Head chef and owner Gordon Stott at the Purefoy Arms, Basingstoke, Hampshire, said he had not seen much of an opportunity with low-sugar versions of desserts so far but expected demand to increase.

He told The Morning Advertiser​ low-sugar options were more noticeable with food as opposed to low-sugar soft drink variants. 

He said: “I have thought about this a small amount recently because we have just changed our soft drinks offering to more sugar-free options. 

“However, experimenting with supplement sugars in desserts recently, I found it doesn’t have the same effect as sugar so wouldn’t look to change at the moment. 

“I do think though in the near future this will be a big customer demand and, therefore, will have to meet those requirements. It’s going in the same way vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free have in the past years.”

Sweet treats

Keris De Villiers, who operates three sites in Wandsworth, south London, said sales of the four desserts offered at her pubs had “only increased in the past year”.

She explained customers would either view a sugary item as an indulgence or not order dessert if they were health-conscious.

She said: “When people are having a ‘healthier’ day, they will opt for a salad and skip dessert completely.

“But when they go the whole hog, they don’t want anything low in sugar.

“We have never had a request for a lower sugar or fat desserts.”

However, De Villiers said it was a “different story” for drinks.

The Government’s report examined the impact of the soft drinks industry levy (SDIL) and found a consumer shift towards reduced or no-sugar products and purchases of sugary drinks decreasing across different demographics. 

It found a 27.2% sugar reduction per 100ml for drinks consumed out of home.

De Villiers said: “We switched from Coke to Coke Zero on the gun and it was so positively received. We also switched to sugar-free Red Bull and only offer the light tonic waters.

“Customers have been very receptive and appreciate us making the healthier choice for them.”

Healthy kitchens

Chef-operator Stosie Madi, from the Parkers Arms, Lancashire, said the negative effects of sugar was something the pub had always been conscious of.

She explained: “Everything is made in-house so there’s no additives, hidden sugars or bad fats. All jams, preserves and sauces are made by us in-house and we have complete control of what goes in them. The same goes for savoury dishes and puddings.

“We have cordials on the menu for soft drinkers and kids prepared in-house with 30% sugar to a litre of liquid & herb or fruit.”

As well as ensuring portions are moderately sized, the pub also prepares pastries with less than 1% sugar and uses honey in marinades. 

It uses pure purées from local seasonal fruit to make ice cream and sorbet, so uses only small amounts of extra sugar.

Madi added: “We make our own sourdough breads with wholemeal flour, water, salt and wild culture [that] means a more controlled slow energy release and no added sugar or additives.”

Pub trade bodies have previously expressed concerns about sugar reduction schemes placing unnecessary pressures​ on businesses already struggling with other taxes and regulations.

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