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Action on Sugar

Sugar reduction: Report on progress between 2015 and 2019


Public Health England (PHE) has published its third-year report on progress made by the food industry against voluntarily targets to reduce sugar in everyday foods that contribute most to children’s sugar intake by 20% by 2020. This report also includes the details of the changes in sugar across juice and milk-based drink categories and the progress of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) between 2015 and 2019. 

  • For retailers and manufacturers, there is an overall 3% reduction (sales weighted average sugar per 100g) since 2015 showing this has been a minute change since last years report 
  • Retailer own brand and manufacturer branded yogurts and fromage frais, and breakfast cereals have reduced sugar by 12.9% and 13.3% respectively.
  • There have been increases in sugar for the out of home sector in the pudding category as well as increases in sugar for retailers and manufacturer products of chocolate confectionery (+10.7%)
  • For the out of home sector, based on more limited data, there is hardly any change (simple average sugar per 100g)

Progress made with juice and milk-based drinks:

  • There have been reductions in the sales weighted average sugar per 100ml for some categories: pre-packed milk-based drinks (22.1%), pre-packed flavoured milk substitute drinks (5.3%) and pre-packed fermented (yogurt) drinks (13.4%) 
  • The number of calories likely to be consumed at one time has decreased in all categories other than pre-packed mono juices
  • There has been an increase (4.1%) in the simple average sugar content for open cup milkshakes but a decrease in open cup hot/cold drinks (9.5%) and blended juices (4.7%)

Progress made under the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL):

  • 43.7% sugar reduction per 100ml in retailer own brand and manufacturer branded products and a 38.5% reduction in the out of home sector proving to be effective
  • the number of calories likely to be consumed on a single occasion fell by 35.2% between 2015 and 2019
  • The percentage decreases from the SDIL are much greater than those seen for the food categories included in the voluntary sugar reduction programme

Media Coverage

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

 "Apart from the sugary drinks levy, it’s abundantly clear that the Government’s voluntary sugar reduction programme is simply not working, after reporting a dismal 0.1% reduction in sugar between 2018 and 2019.

 Food and drink companies that want to do the right thing are crying out for a level playing field, which can only be achieved by setting mandatory targets for calorie and sugar reduction.  The soft drinks levy has shown that this approach is both best for business, and best for everyone’s health, including people from more disadvantaged groups.

 Whilst the Government gets to grips with the current Covid-19 pandemic, it mustn’t ignore that the situation is fuelling the UK’s other pandemics – obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and tooth decay – all linked to high sugar intakes which the food industry is largely responsible for. It’s imperative that whichever organisation takes over from Public Health England, they implement comprehensive and compulsory reformulation targets across the whole of the food and drink industry to gradually reduce the amount of sugar and excess calories in food and drink."

Jo Churchill, Public Health Minister, said:

“On sugar reduction, particularly in products like breakfast cereals, yogurts and ice cream, we have achieved some much needed progress. This will make it easier for everyone to make healthier choices, but it’s clear more can be done.

“COVID-19 has highlighted obesity and how important it is to tackle it. Our recent announcement of the obesity strategy includes world-leading measures, such as a TV watershed for advertising food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar, and consulting on how we can introduce a ban online. If more action is needed to support individuals to lead a healthy life, we will go further to help them.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE, said:

“Too much sugar is bad for our health and most of us are consuming more than we need, often without realising it.

“We’ve continued to see some progress in reducing sugar in a number of everyday food and drink products and this shows that success is possible through reformulation.

“Yet, overall progress remains too slow. Faster and more robust action is needed to help us consume less sugar, which will help us become healthier and lower the economic burden of obesity and preventable pressure on the NHS.”



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