Gavin Partington is the Director General of the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA). The BSDA is the collective voice of the British soft drinks industry. Here he explains the innovative ways the sector is helping to lead the way in sugar reduction. And how these efforts have helped to bring about a 16% reduction in the amount of sugar British people are consuming from soft drinks over the past 4 years.
I’ve been with the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) since 2012. It’s my role to look after the day-to-day running of the organization and to ensure the industry’s voice is heard on legal, technical and social issues concerning soft drinks to the media and political audiences.
The soft drinks industry employs over 15,000 people and supports over 340,000 jobs in the UK. The vast majority of Britain’s soft drinks manufacturers are members of BSDA, including Coca-Cola Great Britain. We're fortunate that some of the biggest brands in the world are producing such a wide range of beverages here in the UK.
What's more, the soft drinks sector is a significant contributor to the British economy, generating £11 billion a year; not only through economic growth, but through innovation, job creation and skills across the whole country.
An innovative industry
As well as supporting the British economy and creating jobs, I am pleased to say that the UK soft drinks industry is also leading the way in reducing the amount of sugar people are consuming.
Soft drinks companies have been introducing new and innovative ways to help people reduce the sugar they consume from their drinks for many years now. And these innovations have helped lead to a 16% reduction in people’s sugar intake from soft drinks in the past four years. That’s not easy to do – it’s not something that happens overnight. There’s a lot of work that’s gone on to get us there.
Great tasting beverages with no sugar or calories
There aren’t many products that you can remove the sugar and calories from and they’ll still taste great. After all, first and foremost soft drinks need to taste great otherwise people won’t drink them.
Through complex reformulation techniques that take a significant amount of investment, time and ingenuity the soft drinks sector is at the forefront of producing enjoyable, low and no calorie beverages for their consumers. A prime example of this is the new
Smart use of sweeteners
We have well-established mechanics for reducing sugar, like the use of sweeteners including newer innovations such as stevia. This is a plant that belongs to the chrysanthemum family – its leaves contain a unique source of natural sweetness and we are starting to see it be used in more and more beverages.
The soft drinks sector has gone even further than just cutting down on sugar and calories. Soft drinks companies have increased the availability of smaller pack sizes and have significantly increased the advertising spend on low and no calorie products: almost 60% of soft drinks now sold in the UK are low or no calorie.
Listening to consumers
The soft drinks industry has a long history of listening to our consumers and giving them what they want. Consumers' needs are clearly changing and as an industry we are responding by providing an ever wider range of beverages. Our members also have a proven history of sugar and calorie reduction initiatives. For example, look at Diet Coke – that’s a product that’s more than 30 years old now!
What does the future hold?
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