News Children's Food Campaign

Which? reveals 'shockingly' high sugar content in iced coffees

Which? magazine’s recent research reveals the ‘shockingly large’ sugar content of high street iced coffees, which are currently exempt from the Soft Drinks industry Levy.

Credit: Andrew Neel, Pexels

Credit: Andrew Neel, Pexels

Research by Which? into the sugar content of high street iced coffees has shown they contain huge amounts of free sugars (those added or already found in syrups, juices and honey), often exceeding the recommended daily limit in just one drink.

Which? researcher Shefalee Loth reports: “The Starbucks Grande (medium, 473ml) Java chip Frappuccino with soya milk contains more than 11 teaspoons of sugar (46g) ... You are recommended to have at most six to seven teaspoons (30g) of free sugars a day. A can of Coca Cola has nine teaspoons.”

While most soft drinks have been subject to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy since 2018, some such as drinks served in open cups and those containing syrups are exempt. Since the introduction of the levy in 2018 46,000 tonnes of sugar a year has been removed from the nation’s diet as companies sought to reformulate drinks into healthier options to avoid paying the tax. There has also been an 8% relative reduction in obesity levels in 10/11 year old girls, especially in the most deprived areas, as demonstrated by recent research led by Dr Nina Rogers at Cambridge University.

This research calls into question the logic of exempting these drinks from the levy, which has proven its effectiveness in cutting sugar and creating healthier alternatives. Five years on from its introduction, the continued presence or these very high-sugar drinks in high street cafes would suggest more action is needed. Loth adds, “These drinks are so sugary it’s incredible they’re not subject to the levy.”

Kate Howard, Children’s Food Campaign Coordinator says,

“This research shows how vital it is to extend the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to other drinks which are high in added sugar. We’ve seen the positive impact the levy can have on our diets, and we’re missing a trick by not including other common drinks like these which are often even more sugary than canned fizzy drinks.”

5 years on from the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, Sustain is calling for further fiscal measures to build on this success and to make our food and drink healthier for everyone.

Published 1 Jul 2023

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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