UK: Research finds sugar tax has little impact on buying habits

Published: 08/10/2018, 8:49:06 AM

The UK's sugar tax has had minimal impact on consumer behaviour since its implementation in April this year, according to data from Nielsen, according to the UK's Talking Retail.

The research - which compared results from respondents prior to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy coming into effect on 6 April 2018 and now - found that 62% of UK shoppers claim not to have changed their consumption behaviour in any way post-sugar tax, and only one fifth are checking sugar content on packages more frequently since the tax has come into effect.

The figures reveal 11% of shoppers claimed they planned to stop drinking sugary soft drinks prior to the tax; this number has fallen to just 1% post-tax. The number of people who said they would continue to buy sugary soft drinks also grew post-tax, increasing from 31% in February to 44% in June.

Prior to the tax being rolled out, the majority of the UK supported the government-imposed levy, and some even felt it wasn't strict enough. The research found 54% of respondents supported the tax, and since its implementation, 69% said it should be expanded to confectionery and biscuits.

Aylin Ceylan, consumer and shopper partner at Nielsen, said: "Sugar continues to be the number one health concern for the fourth consecutive year and initiatives like the Soft Drinks Industry Levy doubtless contribute to furthering awareness. While we haven't seen any significant changes in consumer habits, we have seen manufacturers adapt accordingly. The average sugar content has been steadily decreasing in key FMCG categories such as carbonated drinks and breakfast cereals.

"Most soft drinks now actually fall below the sugar tax threshold, as manufacturers have been encouraged to reformulate most sugary drinks. As a result, drinks below the threshold are driving growth due to more households buying more, often at higher prices, and shoppers shifting to low-sugar alternatives. Post-sugar tax, shoppers are also continuing to purchase sugary soft drinks, but buy less and less often."