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Action on Sugar

Sweet spreads

13 April 2017

• Two slices of bread with chocolate spread (24g sugar) contains the entire daily maximum intake of sugar
• There’s over four times more sugar (57%) than hazelnuts (13%) in a jar of chocolate spread – despite being marketed as a ‘hazelnut spread’
• Companies accused of misleading marketing aimed at children and reminded to reconsider their ethical and corporate responsibility
• Sweet spreads are one of the top 10 contributors of sugar intake in children in the UK YET most products surveyed would receive red front of pack labelling
• Public urged not to consume high sugar sweet spreads everyday
• Action on Sugar is calling on the Government to get tougher on ensuring the 2020 sugar reduction targets are achieved – with penalties for those companies who fail to comply

Click here for full survey data [PDF 256KB]

Click here for media coverage

A NEW survey of 272 sweet spreads (jams/fruit spreads, marmalades and chocolate spreads) by Action on Sugar  at Queen Mary University of London  has revealed the excessive high levels of sugar in these products.  More than two-thirds of the 38 chocolate spreads surveyed contained over 10g sugar per serving (20g) – with the most well-known brands containing three of a child’s five maximum daily teaspoons of sugar – that’s more than half their maximum intake!  

As sweet spreads are one of the top 10 contributors of sugar intake in children in the UK, they are included as part of PHE’s Sugar Reduction programme which has set an average target of 43.8g/100g of sugar for chocolate spreads and 34.6g/100g for fruit spreads (announced 30th March 2017) . Action on Sugar is calling on the industry to start reducing levels of sugar immediately and for Government to get tougher if companies show no sign of working towards the 2020 sugar reduction targets, by issuing penalties.

Just two slices of bread with chocolate spread (24g sugar) contains the same amount of sugar as 15 chocolate fingers  – which is the entire maximum daily intake of 7-10 year olds (24g). Eaten over the duration of a week (i.e. two slices every day for seven days), that’s 168g of sugar – or the equivalent amount of sugar found in two and a half boxes of Maltesers (120g box).

Yet worryingly, brands such as Nutella are marketed as a ‘hazelnut spread’  when in reality the product contains over four times more sugar (57%) than hazelnuts (13%).  Parents are warned that these products are high in sugar, would receive a red traffic light label and are not everyday foods.

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar says, “Companies that make these ‘sugar’ spreads and specifically market them misleadingly as something else to children, should consider their ethical and corporate responsibility. They should immediately stop this misleading marketing and ensure that they go well beyond the 20% sugar reduction that Public Health England is calling for, as there are already identical spreads that contain far less sugar.”

Examples of higher sugar chocolate spreads:

Product name Sugar (g) per 20g* Sugar (tsp) per 20g*
Tesco Original Chocolate Spread 400g 11.8 3
Tesco Duo Chocolate Spread 400g 11.8 3
Tesco White Chocolate Spread 400g 11.4 3
Tesco Caramel & Chocolate Spread 400g 11.4 3
Asda Hazelnut Chocolate Spread 400g 11.4 3
Asda Duo Chocolate Flavour Spread 400g 11.4 3
Cadbury Crunchie Chocolate Spread 400g 11.4 3
Lidl Mister Choc Duo Chocolate Spread 400g 11.4 3
Nutella Ferrero Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa 400g 11.4 3
The Co-operative Loved By Us Chocolate Spread 400g 11.3 3

Examples of lower sugar chocolate spreads: 

Product name Sugar (g) per 20g* Sugar (tsp) per 20g*
Jim Jams Hazelnut Chocolate Spread 350g 1.7 0
Morrisons The Best 30% Dark Chocolate Spread 200g 5.8 1
Waitrose 1 Dark Chocolate Spread 325g 8.4 2
Macabella Crunch Cocoa & Macadamia Nut Crunchy Spread 375g 8.8 2
Morrisons Hazelnut Chocolate Spread 400g 9.4 2
Macabella Velvet Cocoa & Macadamia Nut Smooth Spread 375g 9.6 2
Essential Waitrose Hazelnut Chocolate Spread 400g 9.6 2

Examples of higher sugar strawberry jam/spreads: 

Product name Sugar (g) per 20g* Sugar (tsp) per 20g*
Mackays Scottish Strawberry Preserve 340g 13.4 3
Wilkin & Sons Ltd Tiptree Strawberry Conserve 340g 13.2 3
Wilkin & Sons Ltd Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry Conserve 340g 13.0 3
Tesco Strawberry Jam 340g 12.3 3
Hartley's Smooth Strawberry Jam 340g 12.2 3
Asda Extra Special Strawberry Conserve 340g 11.8 3

Examples of lower sugar strawberry jam/spreads: 

Product name Sugar (g) per 20g* Sugar (tsp) per 20g*
Tesco No Added Sugar Strawberry Jam 340g 0.5 0
Stute No Sugar Added Strawberry Extra Jam 430g 0.5 0
Asda Reduced Sugar Strawberry Jam 320g 4.8 1
Meridian Organic Strawberry Fruit Spread 284g 5.8 1
Simply M&S Reduced Sugar Strawberry Jam 415g 6.6 2
artley's Less Sugar More Fruit Strawberry Jam 320g 7.5 2

*Serving size varied between 15-30g on pack, so it was standardised to  20g

Other findings reveal that jams and fruit spreads contain similar high levels of sugar, with just a small (20g) serving containing up to a whopping 3 teaspoons of sugar. Of the 43 strawberry jam/spreads products surveyed 95% would receive a red traffic light label for sugar levels.

The survey data was collected by visiting all main supermarkets using the FoodSwitch app  to collect data on nutritional information, 272 products were analysed (per 100g or per serving) including blackcurrant, apricot, raspberry and strawberry jam, plus marmalade and chocolate spreads.

Registered Nutritionist Kawther Hashem, Researcher at Action on Sugar says, “It’s shocking that two slices of toast with chocolate spread or jam can contain 24g/6 tsp of sugar, the entire maximum daily intake for 7-10 year olds. Many of these spreads are high in sugar and not an everyday breakfast option.

“Our survey shows that you can spread at least one teaspoon less sugar on your toast, if you just choose products with less sugar. Read the labels when shopping, try out our free app ‘FoodSwitch’ and choose high fruit and lower sugar varieties of your favourite spread.”

Commenting on the research from Action on Sugar, regarding the excessive high levels of sugar in sweet spreads, Kevin Bath from JimJams Chocolate Spreads, the healthier chocolate spread company, said “The findings of this research comes as no surprise to us.  We have known for a long time the impact sugar is having on the health of our children, with the greatest concerns being around childhood obesity and dental impact. NHS figures** report that there were 9,206 tooth extractions performed on children aged 0-4 in 2015-16. That’s a 24% increase since 2007.

We started the JimJams brand three years ago with our own children in mind.  We were shocked at the damaging levels of sugar in chocolate spreads and could not understand why no one had attempted to do something about it, particularly when chocolate spreads are heavily marketed towards children. As a result we did it ourselves and brought out a whole range of lower sugar chocolate spreads and jams.We must act and start to provide our children with healthier alternatives.”

About FoodSwitch UK

FoodSwitch UK is a free smartphone app that enables consumers to make healthier and smarter food and drink choices whilst out shopping. FoodSwitch UK allows users to scan the barcode of over 100,000 packaged food and drinks sold across major UK supermarkets using their smartphone camera to receive immediate, easy-to-understand ‘traffic light’ colour-coded nutritional information along with suggested similar, healthier products to switch to.                                                                               

For more information contact: David Clarke @ Rock PR:
M: 07773 225516

Notes to editors

1 Action on Sugar is a group of specialists concerned with sugar and its effects on health. It is successfully working to reach a consensus with the food industry and Government over the harmful effects of a high sugar diet, and bring about a reduction in the amount of sugar in processed foods.

2 Survey details - full survey sorted by category highest sugars per 100g attached.
- Data was collected in store from w/c 6th and 13th February 2017 from the following retailers: Aldi, ASDA, Co-operative, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Holland and Barrett.
- A small sample batch of products was double checked during w/c 27st March 2017.
- Data per 100g was available for all the products.
- Serving size was standardised to 20g as it varied between 15-30g on pack.

 3 Official advice is that no more than 5% of daily calorie intake should come from free (added) sugars -

Age Maximum sugar intake per day Cubes Teaspoons
2 years No more than 13 grams 3 1 to 3
3 years No more than 15 grams 4 2 to 4
4-6 years No more than 19 grams 5 3 to 5
7-10 years No more than 24 grams 6 4 to 6

 4 Public Health England - Sugar reduction: Achieving the 20% -

5 Approx. 4 chocolate fingers contains 6.4g sugar -

6 Maltesers (120g box) contains 62.3g sugar -

7 Nutella advert

8 Nutella ingredients list - Sugar, Palm Oil, Hazelnuts (13%), Fat-Reduced Cocoa (7.4%), Skimmed Milk Powder (6.6%), Whey Powder (Milk), Emulsifier: Lecithin (Soya), Vanillin .

9 FoodSwitch UK


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