The Sugar Reduction Summit 2017

The Sugar Reduction Summit 2017

Yesterday Food Active attended the Sugar Reduction Summit, held in the Royal Society London. It was a chance to discuss the ongoing progress and efforts in sugar reduction nationally, including Public Health England’s sugar reduction programme and the role industry, science, research and public health.

The Summit also organised the Sugar Awards, a chance to recognise and celebrate the efforts of industries, organisations, departments and individuals in the effort to reduce sugar consumption in the population. The Awards consisted of 6 different categories and our campaign, Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) was nominated for the ‘Best Sugar Reduction Awareness Campaign’ in the Sugar Awards.

There was an excellent range of speakers at the event representing several different stakeholders, including Jenny Rosborough from Action on Sugar, Professor Tim Spector from Kings College London, Jyotsna Vohra from Cancer Research UK and was chaired by University of Liverpool’s Professor Jason Halford.

The Summit opened with a focus on policy, progress and public health, with the Public Health England’s sugar reduction programme discussed in great detail throughout the day. Unfortunately, figures show that industry are not on track to meet the 5% sugar reduction targets after 1 year in some of the 9 food and drink categories outlined by PHE; including breakfast cereals, chocolate and biscuit products.

However, there has been some promising action from the food and drink industry, particularly in soft drinks, in response to the programme; including Lucozade, Fanta, own-brand colas from Tesco, the Co-Op and Asda, Fentimans – although a 0% change in sugar content in the two key players in the soft drinks industry, Pepsi and Coca Cola. Some companies have also made some admirable changes; especially Nestlé’s. Following 2 years of research and recipe development, the new 30% less sugar Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles and Randoms contain 17.4g and 16.6g less sugar per 100g respectively than the previous ‘full sugar’ product. They have also committed to reducing the sugar in their products by 10% by 2018 – although so far they have only managed a 4% reduction and the calorie content has effectively remained the same despite the reduction in sugar. Other companies commended for their efforts were Waitrose (committed to reducing the sugar content of cereals by 15%) and Kellogg’s (committed to a 14% reduction in sugar content).

But what are we replacing this sugar with? Also discussed was the need to ensure other nutrients, such as overall calorie content, fat, saturated fat and salt rise to replace the sugar – as this would be a regressive by-product of the programme – we need to aim towards creating more nutritious food across the board.

Consumer demand and perceptions on sugar and sugar reduction efforts were discussed frequently throughout the day – research from Kantar World panel found 86% of consumers are concerned about sugar and over half claimed they have actively tried to significantly reduce or completely cut out sugar. And yet, we are still consuming too much sugar in the UK – which is why we need policy to help create a healthier food environment for consumers by reducing unnecessary quantities of sugar from foods and beverages. Research from Rachel Bradford, IGD, also found that over half of the population do not trust the food and drink industry, and a further 60% believed industry didn’t care about making products healthy.

There were a number of talks from leading industries in sweetener innovation, however there was a general consensus around the room that whilst the use of sweeteners may be one of the tools in sugar reduction, we must try to move the population’s sweet tooth away from sweet tastes and flavours – otherwise those cravings and desire for sugar will always remain. In addition, speakers from industry raised concerns about the difficulties in reducing/removing sugar from some of the 9 categories targeted by PHE – in terms of palatability, shelf life and most importantly, consumer acceptance.

On the whole, the Summit highlighted there has been some commendable progress since the sugar reduction programme took shape. Whilst sugar reduction remains a key focus for industry at present, there is still a very long way to go in sugar reduction efforts; hitting targets set by PHE, ensuring this reduces overall calorie content and not increase fat, saturated fat or salt contents, re-normalising portion sizes and making low-sugar options the easier and better choice – and more.


The Sugar Reduction Awards 2017

And to finish off the day on a high note, we are pleased to announce our campaign Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) received a Highly Commendable Award in the Best Sugar Reduction Awareness Campaign, coming joint second alongside Action on Sugar to the winners Food Teachers Centre Community.

Congratulations to all entries to the Sugar Awards and to the organisers and speakers for organising the Summit.

To find out more about the Sugar Awards and see the full list of winners and runners up, follow this link to the Press Release


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