News / Sugar Smart UK

Many food brands not meeting sugar reduction targets

New research from Nuffield Department of Population Health finds less that half of the leading food brands have significantly reduced sugar targets.

David Jakab / Pexels

David Jakab / Pexels

In March 2017, Public Health England introduced voluntary 5% and 20% sugar reduction targets for the food industry to achieve by 2018 and 2020, respectively.

The measures were put in place in an effort to significantly reduce nutrition related chronic diseases including diabetes, hypertension, obesity as well as tooth decay.

Researchers from Nuffield Department of Population Health investigated whether food companies are on track to meet these targets and in their recently published study found that, on large, brands still have a long way to go.

The study used sales data from Euromonitor for the five food categories that contribute the most to sugar intake in the UK: biscuits and cereal bars, breakfast cereals, chocolate confectionery, sugar confectionery, and yoghurts.

Overall, researchers found that out of the top 50 companies who sell products with high sugar content, less than 24 met the 5% sugar reduction targets for 2018 which does not bode well for the ambitious 2020 targets of 20% reduction, which has yet to be analysed.

Previous work by the researchers has demonstrated that, over the same period, soft drinks underwent a much greater decrease in average sales-weighted sugar content, by around 34%. This is likely to be due to the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy in April 2018, which imposed a two-tiered tax on drinks containing more than 5 g of sugar per 100 ml. 

Lead author Dr Lauren Bandy said:

‘This analysis raises concerns about the likelihood of companies having achieved the more stretching 20% reduction target set by PHE for 2020. Besides companies reformulating existing food products and launching new low-sugar products, additional policy measures may be needed from the UK Government.’ 

Ren Piercey, Sustainable Food Places Local Action Officer,

'There is little incentive for brands to abide by voluntary sugar reduction measures. We now have evidence of the success of implementing fiscal measures via the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) to reduce sugar content of fizzy drinks. If the Government is serious about reducing nutrition related chronic diseases in the UK, the SDIL model should be rolled out to cover other products that are high in fat, salt or sugar.'

Published 4 Jun 2021

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