News / Children's Food Campaign

Food and Drink Federation urged to stop opposing sugary drinks tax, as survey finds top UK brands less hostile to the measure

A survey of Food and Drink Federation (FDF) members by the Children's Food Campaign highlights divergent industry views on the Government’s soft drinks industry levy. This is despite FDF maintaining its aggressive opposition to the levy.

FDF members Allied Bakeries, Birdseye, McCain, Nairns, Premier, Slimfast and Tilda all stated they have “no position” on the levy. Imminent publication of draft legislation on the sugary drinks tax offers the chance for the FDF and others to stop opposing a vital policy measure to curb children’s obesity and diabetes. 

A survey of Food and Drink Federation members by the Children’s Food Campaign has found that some of the UK’s most popular brands have “no position” on the soft drinks industry levy. This is despite the trade body itself being at the forefront of efforts to block the levy, an effective policy championed in the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan.

Among those who responded neutrally or confirmed they did have an official stance were three of the UK’s top twelve brands, and companies which employ thousands of people in the UK and produce products as varied as bread, cakes, frozen food, ready meals, rice, oatcakes and slimming products.

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of Children’s Food Campaign – an alliance of health and medical organisations, who carried out the survey, said:

“Companies that accept the need for a soft drinks industry levy, or have a neutral position, appear to be ‘carrying the can’ for companies that benefit from sales of sugary drinks. The Food and Drink Federation’s aggressive lobbying against the sugary drinks tax is a retrograde step which even some of its own members are shying away from. It’s time the FDF and other trade bodies fully engage with the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, rather than spend hundreds of thousands of pounds and many hours of staff time trying to defeat a an effective measure to improve children’s health.”

“The publication next Monday of draft legislation on the soft drinks industry levy provides an ideal moment for the Food and Drink Federation and its members to press the ‘reset’ button. The soft drinks industry levy is already having a positive effect, over a year before it officially comes in. Instead of opposing the tax, FDF could be helping more companies to follow the lead of Tesco and Lucozade Ribena Suntory and commit to reduce the sugar in all of their soft drinks below the 5 grams per 100ml threshold that would trigger the tax. These leading companies have shown that change is possible, for the benefit of children’s health.”

Media contact: 
For media interviews and further information, please contact:
Malcolm Clark, Co-ordinator, Children’s Food Campaign
07733 322148 / 0203 5596 777 / malcolm@sustainweb.org / @childrensfood

NOTES:

1)   Survey of Food and Drink Federation members

The survey was conducted by Children’s Food Campaign by email and phone in Oct-Nov 2016. A selection of 55FDF members were chosen from the full FDF member list. http://www.fdf.org.uk/members_full.aspx Criteria for selection included: (i) brand or company name recognition (ii) manufacturer of food, rather than primarily soft drinks or tea or coffee. Of those contacted, Children’s Food Campaign received initial responses from21companies, and full responses from 14. Companies were asked:“Does your company have a formal position on the Government’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy?Are you able to confirm whether your company is supportive, opposed or neutral/has no position on the levy, and very briefly why?”

2)   FDF member responses

No formal position

Allied Bakeries Ltd – part of associated British Foods (brands Kingsmill, Allinson, Burgen).

  • “Allied Bakeries does not have a position on the Government’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

Birdseye – part of Nomad Foods Europe (brands Birdseye, Findus, Iglo)

  • “Birds Eye / Iglo don’t have any comment on the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.”

Tilda (rice)

  • “I don’t believe Tilda’s rice products would be impacted by the UK government’s proposed sugar tax.  It is because of this that we do not have a formal position on this issue.” 

Slimfast (ready meals/shakes)

  • “SlimFast UK will not provide a comment in this instance as its range of products are neither suitable for children or impacted by the sugary drinks tax.” 

Nairns  (oatcakes)

  • “At present, Nairn’s have no formal position to share.”

Batchelors (soups) – part of Premier Foods

  • “Batchelors are soups and not soft drinks”. They offered no further statement.
No formal position, but referred us to Food and Drink Federation

McCain Foods Ltd

  • “Because we are not a drinks company we don't have a direct position on the soft drinks industry levy. But the FDF which we are a part of would.”
Explicitly backed Food and Drink Federation's position

 Wrigleys

  • “As members of the Food and Drink Federation, Wrigley supported their submission to the formal Treasury consultation.”

Cadbury / Mondelez International 

  • “Our response is that you need to talk with the Food and Drink Federation for comment on behalf of our business and the wider industry.”

Mars

  • “As members of the Food and Drink Federation we have supported the submission made by FDF as part of the formal Treasury consultation.”

 

Other responses

Finsbury Food Group Plc (makes food under licence from Weightwatchers, Thorntons Disney, Village Bakery)

  • We are very happy to engage in initiatives to promote education for the public. We believe that education is the key in this discussion and a holistic approach is needed to solve issues around public health. As part of the Food and Drink Federation, Finsbury has a voice in recommending appropriate categories for sugar targets to Public Health England and we continue to play an active role in this area.”

Alpro  

  • “We believe our plant-based drinks need to be exempted just like the example of Finland.”

Haribo

  • “We know obesity is an important and complex issue, and one where the food and drink industry has a role to play. That’s why we have focused on developing a range of choices to help our consumers enjoy a treat in a way that’s right for them.”

Weetabix

  • “Weetabix won’t be providing a statement on this occasion.”

3)   Top Brands list

Brands who we received statements from who are in the Top 12 of the Grocer’s top 100 Britain’s Biggest Brands list: Number 5: Birds Eye; Number 11: McCain; Number 12: Kingsmill.

4)   Food and Drink Federation

FDF counts among its members companies such as AB Sugar, British Sugar, Tate & Lyle, Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Britvic.

In an email to Children’s Food Campaign on 25 November 2016, the Food and Drink Federation confirmed:

“There has been no change in FDF’s position on the proposed Soft Drinks Industry Levy.  We continue to believe that there is no persuasive evidence that fiscal measures of this sort will achieve their stated public health goals. … We oppose punitive taxation of food and drink on principle.   … FDF continues to support the aims of the Can The Tax campaign but BSDA [British Soft Drinks Association] is naturally the lead trade association on thisand they are best placed to answer any questions. FDF of course made a detailed submission in response to the Levy consultation.  We will study the draft [legalisation] with great interest and will continue to make appropriate representations in support of the positions outlined above.”

5)  ‘L-Day’ - Mon 5 December

Monday 5 December is the day the Treasury publishes its draft Finance Bill.  The soft drinks industry levy will be included in the draft legislation, which will then go before Parliament in spring 2017. On Monday the Treasury will also be releasing the results of its technical consultation on the levy and its response to the consultation.

6)   Children’s Food Campaign

Children’s Food Campaign aims to improve children and young people's health by campaigning for policy changes in our schools, in our communities and throughout our society that would promote healthy and sustainable food environments. The Children's Food Campaign is supported by over 100 UK-wide and national organisations, including public health professional bodies, trade unions, school food experts, children’s charities and environmental groups. We are a campaign of the charity Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.

7)   Obesity Health Alliance 

The Children's Food Campaign is also a member of the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) - a coalition of over 30 organisations committed to share expertise and support Government to tackle the issue of overweight and obesity in the UK.

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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