Fuseworks Media

A third of household beverage budget spent on sugary drinks – study by Health Coalition Aotearoa

A New Zealand study of beverage purchases shows consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks remains high, accounting for one third of the average household drinks budget, prompting renewed calls for a sugary drinks tax.

“The findings of this study are a stark reminder of the urgent need to drive down consumption of sugary drinks with an industry levy,” Health Coalition Aotearoa food policy expert panel co-chair Sande Gates said.

The University of Auckland study assessed annual household purchases of beverages from 2015 to 2019 and found a slight reduction in the spend on sugary drinks over the period equated to a teaspoon of sugar per person, per week on average – not nearly enough to result in health improvements.

Lead author, Heart Foundation Senior Fellow Dr Helen Eyles said the study findings show Government intervention is needed to achieve the necessary declines in consumption to reduce the risks of disease.

Major risks posed by high dietary consumption of free sugars include dental caries, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per person, per day.

The study found the average household bought 72.3 litres of sugar-sweetened beverages in 2019 – or a third of the total household drinks budget. This was a reduction of 5.9 litres from 78.2 litres in 2015.

Eyles said for an average sized household in the NielsenIQ Consumer Panel dataset, the reduction in sugar equated to 11 grams or 2 ¾ teaspoons of sugar per household, per week (less than 1 teaspoon of sugar per person).

By comparison, the UK’s soft drink industry levy resulted in a reduction of 30 grams, around 7 ½ tsp of sugar per household, per week in the first year, based on similar household purchasing data.

The annual decline in sugary drink purchases was not consistent, despite an overall reduction between 2015 and 2019, meaning there was no clear trend that could be expected to continue, Eyles said.

Eyles said the UK tax was most effective because it was designed to target manufacturers and consumers.

“With a well-designed tax, like the tiered approach they have used in the UK, manufacturers are dropping the amount of sugar because the more sugar, the more tax you pay.

“It means even if consumers don’t change their habits, they will still be consuming less sugar because the product has changed.”

Gates said New Zealand urgently needed to catch up with around 45 other countries that have implemented a sugary drinks tax and provided strong evidence the measure would effectively reduce free sugar consumption.

“We need to be thinking about the health of our tamariki and rangitahi and protecting them against short and long-term effects of these products which are so cheap and easy to access.”

Initial analysis of the purchase data was completed by University of Auckland Population Health student Sah Dodd for her thesis.

 

Powered by Fuseworks and Truescope - Media monitoring, insights and news distribution for New Zealand organisations.