News / Children's Food Campaign

Only a fraction of children's yogurts are low sugar, research finds

Only 1 in 20 yogurts with child-friendly packaging and health claims contain low levels of sugar, according to new research from Action on Sugar.

Credit: Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay

Credit: Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay

New research carried out by Action on Sugar revealed that efforts to reduce sugar in children's yogurts have been disappointing. The group based at Queen Mary University of London reviewed the sugar levels of 100 yogurts featuring child-friendly packaging: cartoon animations, characters and designs deliberately targeted at children.

Only 1 in 20 were rated low (green) in sugar. Additionally, over half (63%) were found to provide at least a third of a 4-6 year old's maximum daily intake for added sugars (19g) per serving.

Nestle Rolo Mix-in Toffee yogurt contained the highest levels of sugar with 5.5 teaspoons per yogurt pot (22g) - exceeding a 4-6 year old's maximum daily intake for added sugar. The second worst offender was Nestle Smarties Vanilla Flavour yogurt with 4 teaspoons per serving (16.5g).

The research also found that many of these yogurts were promoted with health claims about calcium, vitamin D and protein content on the pack. This creates confusion about the healthiness of the products and can encourage parents to purchase the product before analysing the nutrition labels and in spite of the sugar levels.

Fran Bernhardt, Children’s Food Campaign Coordinator at Sustain said:

We all want children to have the best start in life, so the food we give them needs to be healthy. But when it comes to children’s yogurts, Action on Sugar’s new research reveals a flood of sugary options with only 1 in 20 containing low sugar levels. Our local networks of public health initiatives put a lot of effort into helping parents to cut through such misleading marketing, resource that’s better spent elsewhere. We all need to play our part to support parents to make healthier choices for their children, so Government should make sure cartoon images and health claims are reserved for healthier products.

Registered Nutritionist Dr Kawther Hashem, Campaign Lead at Action on Sugar said:

Parents can easily be misled when walking through the yogurt aisle in the supermarket. Often companies try to avert our eyes from seeing the significant amount of sugar listed in the ingredients and nutrition tables, by using healthy sounding claims and cartoony images on the front of pack.

Given only 5% of yogurts with child friendly packaging would have a green coloured label as being ‘healthy’ for sugar, food companies must make every effort to reduce the sugar in these products, particularly the ones targeted so explicitly towards children.

Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director at Action on Sugar said:

Clever marketing techniques such as advertising, promotions and packaging are powerful tools to get children hooked on the sweet stuff from a young age and for life. Whilst the Government’s Obesity Strategy is taking bold steps to tackle unhealthy advertising and promotions, they now need to ensure food companies only use cartoons and health halo statements on their healthier products, allowing parents to see more of what is good for their children.

Graham MacGregor CBE - Chairman of Action on Sugar, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Queen Mary University of London said:

With ten children out of every class of thirty leaving primary school either overweight or obese, it is imperative that food companies act more responsibly and commit to reformulate sugar, salt and calorie reduction instead of foisting unhealthy products on us that contain child friendly packaging with misleading nutrition and health claims.

Published 19 Aug 2021

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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