Looks like the Philippines isn’t the only country pushing for a sugar tax. Neither are its beverage companies the only ones feeling the heat too, judging from Coca-Cola Amatil’s most recent announcement.
Yesterday, the soft drink giant announced that it would be cutting down on the amount of sugar in its beverages, with the intention of reducing their overall sugar content by 10% within two years. The recipe changes will reportedly affect the company’s consumers in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific in particular.
Apparently, more than 30 countries have already imposed sugar taxes, outwardly to combat the growing obesity epidemic (and probably to raise government revenues too, of course). Australia has yet to join their ranks, but there has been clamor for its government to adapt similar measures, what with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting that one in four Australians qualify as obese.
Classic Coke will remain the same for now, given how the market fiercely resisted the company’s attempts to change the product a couple decades back (New Coke, anyone?), but there have been lower-sugar options such as Diet Coke and Coke Zero available for years. With the possibility of a sugar tax on the horizon, however, Coca-Cola’s Australian and New Zealand arms have initiated a few precautionary measures.
Sugar levels in popular beverages like Lift, Sprite, and Blue Powerade have already been lowered by 23%, 26%, and 20%, respectively, over the past two years. So far, no significant changes in taste have been reported. A lower-sugar option for Fanta is also currently in the works.
“We’ve been listening to the public and what they want is a lower sugar or no sugar alternative to their favorite drinks, so that’s what we’re aiming to do,” a spokesperson was quoted saying, “We’ve just launched a soft drink in New Zealand that is 100 percent sweetened with stevia, which is exciting. We’ve got a lot more to come.”
Despite the company’s seemingly compliant overtures, Coca-Cola Managing Director Alison Watkins disagrees with a sugar tax being the answer to lowering obesity rates, particularly in children.
“I think it is pretty clear that a sugar tax as such won’t address obesity….It is hard yards being an Australian manufacturer these days,” she declared at the company’s annual general meeting last Wednesday, “We are concerned about the impact on our industry – not only our own manufacturing but suppliers to our industry as well. We think it would hurt and we are certainly opposed to it.”
Sugar has been considered to be the culprit in increasing obesity rates, particularly in the West, more so even than fat as of late. Thus, governments have been trying everything from levying taxes on the sweet stuff to creating informational campaigns. Whether these are making a difference or not still remains to be seen, be it in Australia or the rest of the world.
In the meantime, perhaps we should be looking into investing in companies that produce sugar alternatives, no?