Critics pan unreasonable DoH report on soft drinks

Critics have labelled a government report urging soft drinks companies to increase marketing spend on low sugar drinks, as “unreasonable”.

The report, outlining the Government’s progress and next steps on its anti-obesity strategy, says: “We will also work with the soft drinks industry to encourage them to increase the share of marketing budgets they spend promoting low- or no-sugar alternative.”

“Healthy Weight, Heal­thy Lives – One Year On”, also calls on retailers and manufacturers to promote “smaller size soft drink cans”.

The Government says The Food Standards Agency (FSA), the body charged with developing food labelling rules, will oversee any such initiative. But Ian Hall, consultant and chairman of the former Natural Mineral Water Association, says it would be “unreasonable” to tell companies how to manage their marketing budgets and would “interfere with the marketing process”.

“It would make more sense to lower the VAT for low sugar and calorie rates, compared to drinks high in sugar,” Hall says.

One industry observer adds that shifts in marketing budgets do not happen overnight, especially with different products sitting in different stages of their marketing cycle. “So it would start to interfere with a company’s ability to plan with any common sense.”

A spokeswoman for industry body, the British Soft Drinks Association, maintains however that it is keen to work with the government on “its health and well being objectives.

This week the government also outlined a new strategy for its anti-obesity “Change4Life” marketing campaign, which will see it shift its focus away from children to at-risk adult groups such as older men.

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