Reducing sugar content in soft drinks has become a significant focus for the beverage industry in recent years, driven by increasing concerns about the health impacts of excessive sugar consumption.
1. Sugar reduction
UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe, representing the European soft drinks sector, announced today continued progress on its commitments to slash sugar levels in their products with an average of 7.6% reduction of added sugars between 2019 and 2022. The analysis was conducted by the data analytics and consulting company GlobalData, which reveals an additional reduction of 4 percentage points between 2021 and 2022.
Earlier this year, PepsiCo, announced that it had reformulated Pepsi Zero Sugar to reduce caffeine, remove ginseng and tweak the sweetener system. The soft drinks sector uses low- and-no calorie sweeteners as one of its key tools to reduce sugar. These ingredients are safe and have been authorised for use by EU regulators.
2. EU Code of Conduct
UNESDA’s commitments to gradually reduce added sugars are based on the EU Code of Conduct on responsible food business, launched by the European Commission in June 2021. The EU Code of Conduct is one of the first major deliverables of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, which aims to create a more sustainable food system in Europe. Over the past couple of years, UNESDA has been following this code with visible intent and has achieved significant results regarding its actions to create a healthier beverage system — from sugar reduction, marketing practices and actions in EU schools, namely in Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Sweden.
‘’The journey has not been easy. We need policy support to deliver fully circular beverage packaging and to continue advancing on our sugar reduction programme,’’ said Ian Ellington, Senior Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer for PepsiCo in Europe, citing rising inflation in 2022, which he says it has impacted the sector’s ability to use more recycled content in its packaging.
3. 2025’s commitments
Aware of European consumers’ changing habits towards more healthier drinks and choices, the European soft drinks sector has shared further commitments to reduce added sugars in its beverages by another 10% by 2025.
“It is important to know, though, that these 10% are an average reduction of the whole industry, not in every single drink,” explained Nicholas Hodac, UNESDA’ Director-General. “Also, reducing average added sugars by a further 10% will add up to a total decrease of 33% over the last two decades, when we started to stepwise lower sugar percentage,” he added.
Hodac also said that the 2025 commitment is an additional voluntary action taken by the sector and it follows the call made and to lower added sugars levels by 10%, on average, by 2020. “We achieved 14.6% by 2019 and now we’re on the way to cut down average added sugars by another 10% by 2025,” he concluded.