Case Studies in Europe

Since the 1970s, Europe’s soft drinks industry has made significant progress to create a healthier drink environment, in support of evolving consumer demand and public health expectations. The sector’s long-standing commitments to sugar reduction, package size reduction, responsible marketing and advertising practices towards children, stringent school policies and clear consumer information have provided European consumers with a healthier drink experience enabling moderate consumption patterns.

This page aims to bring more clarity to the debate on soft drinks consumption and overweight and obesity in Europe. It highlights the decreasing rates of soft drinks consumption in several European countries (where data is publicly available), and the role that soft drinks play in people’s intake of sugars. The sector is doing its part to contribute to healthier diets, as shown by recent national dietary intake data and data from the WHO’s Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) studies and the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) reports. Yet, urgent action by all sectors of society is needed to effectively address the rising rates of overweight and obesity in Europe.

Prevalence of frequent soft drink consumption does not appear to align with prevalence of overweight based on WHO data

According to WHO COSI recent data (2015-2022), the frequency of soft drinks consumption has reduced in many European countries, while overweight and obesity rates continue to increase. This points to the complex issue of overweight and obesity and the need to properly consider the multiple factors behind it. EU policymakers should look at all sources of added sugars, not only sugar sweetened beverages, in addition to considering different dietary patterns and habits in each country. Addressing overweight and obesity requires coordinated and collective actions from across the entire food and drink industry.

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    6-9-year-olds who reported overweight (inc. obesity)

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    Total 6-9-year-olds consuming soft drink every day or most days (4-6 days/week)

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BG

30%
17.6%
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CZ

23%
30.6%
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DK

20%
7.9%
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ES

48%
3.7%
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HR

37%
29.4%
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IE

27%
1.4%
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LT

29%
9.0%
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LV

30%
12.0%
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MT

37%
17.1%
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PL

32%
29.4%
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PT

32%
14.7%
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RO

31%
13.9%

Note:

These European countries and age group were selected because they are the only ones presented in the WHO COSI reports. The metric chosen is the sum of ‘every day’ and ‘most days (4-6 days)’ consumption included in the WHO COSI reports. This corresponds to WHO’s definition of ‘less healthy’.

Sugary soft drink consumption has declined in 23 WHO European countries/regions between 2014 and 2018, whilst over the same time period prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased in up to a third of countries/region. (reference = COSI 2017/18 report).

 

Source:

  • WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) Report on the fourth round of data collection, 2015–2017 (2021) – see here.
  • COSI/WHO Europe Round 4 (2015-17) – see here.

Decreasing rates of daily consumption of sugary soft drinks of 11, 13, 15-year-olds in Europe (2006-2018) based on WHO data

Soft drinks consumption across different age groups (children and adolescents) has decreased across Europe. This demonstrates that the soft drinks sector’s stringent school policies and responsible marketing and advertising practices to children are having a positive impact in helping Europe’s population manage their intake of sugars from soft drinks. 

  • 2001

  • 2006

  • 2010

  • 2014

  • 2018

11-year-olds who drink sugary soft drinks daily

 

 

 

 

 

13-year-olds who drink sugary soft drinks daily

 

 

 

 

 

15-year-olds who drink sugary soft drinks daily

 

 

 

 

 

Note: There is not data from other countries. UNESDA will continue monitoring the release of new EU data.

Source: WHO Europe Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Surveys, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018.

 

Adapted with permission from Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.: Springer Nature, European Journal of Nutrition, Long-term trends in the consumption of sugary and diet soft drinks among adolescents: a cross-national survey in 21 European countries. Chatelan, A., Lebacq, T., Rouche, M. et al. Copyright © 2022, Springer Nature (2022)

Decreasing soft drink consumption rates by country based on national dietary data

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ES

Decreasing consumption of soft drinks containing added sugars by 3-9-year-olds (1998-2012)

1998

2012

-40%

 Source: EFSA Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database

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IE

Decreasing consumption of soft drinks containing added sugars by 5-12-year-olds (2003-2018)

2003

2018

-80%

 Source: IUNA, National Children’s Food Surveys

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NO

Decreasing consumption of soft drinks containing added sugars by 9 and 13-year-olds (2000-2015)

2000

2015

-50%

Source: Ungkost 2000 and Ungkost 3

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UK

Decreasing consumption of soft drinks containing added sugars by 4-10-year-olds (2008-2019)

2008

2019

-60%

Source: NDNS (www.gov.uk)

Contribution from different food categories to sugars intake

Recent available data on the contribution from different food categories to total sugars intake indicates that the soft drinks sector appears not to be the main contributor in many countries. Therefore, EU policymakers need to consider all sources of added sugars, not only sugar sweetened beverages, and take a multi-faceted approach to encourage balanced diets. It also shows that other food and drink categories need to act, because only collective efforts from the entire value chain will help deliver meaningful and positive health impacts.

Over the past decades, the soft drinks sector has actively contributed to reducing consumers’ intake of sugars with its sugar reduction commitments alongside its many other commitments. The sector achieved a 13.3% reduction in average added sugars between 2000 and 2015, and a 14.6% reduction between 2015 and 2019, becoming the only sector to have responded to the EU call for a 10% added sugars reduction by 2020 – and reaching it well ahead of time. In June 2021, Europe’s soft drinks sector announced a new pledge to reduce sugar in its drinks by another 10% by 2025 in the EU27 and the UK. This will represent an impressive overall reduction of 33% in average added sugars over the past two decades.

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ES

Source

Free sugars intake
9-12-year-olds

Chocolates 22.7%
Sugar-sweetened soft drinks 17.9%
Bakery and pastry 16.1%
Other dairy products 9.69%
Yogurt and fermented milks 8.32%
Juices and nectars 6.57%
Sugar 5.27%
Breakfast cereals and cereal bars 4.06%
Other sweets 1.96%
Sports drinks 1.59%
Jam and other 1.53%
Source

Free sugars intake
13-17-year-olds

Sugar-sweetened soft drinks 30.2%
Chocolates 17.6%
Bakery and pastry 13.1%
Sugar 7.66%
Juices and nectars 6.47%
Other dairy products 5.74%
Yogurt and fermented milks 5.36%
Breakfast cereals and cereal bars 5.04%
Other sweets 1.72%
Jam and other 1.24%
Energy drinks 1.13%
Ready-to-eat-meals 1.10%
Sauces and condiments 0.86%
Bread 0.73%
Sausages and other meat products 0.45%
Cheeses 0.41%
Milks 0.32%
Sports drinks 0.32%

Source: 2013 ANIBES Study population (Ruiz et al., 2017).

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DE

Source

Free sugars intake
3-18-year-olds

Sugar and sweets 34.2%
Juices 21.6%
Dairy products 12.4%
Sugar-sweetened beverages 11.2%
Sweet bread and cakes 10%
RTE cereals and mueslis 4.8%
Others 4.5%
Fruits and vegetables 1.2%

Source:  Perrar et al., 2020

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DK

Source

Total sugars intake
4-75-year-olds

Sugar and sweets 52%
Beverages 24%*
Fruit 13%
Milk 3%
Various 3%
Bread and cereals 2%
Vegetables 1%
Fish 1%

*Includes coffee, tea, water, soda, soft drinks, wine, and spirits, but not milk and juice.

Source: Pedersen et al., 2015

france

FR

Source

Free sugars intake
3-17-year-olds

Other food sources 17%
Cakes and pastries 16%
Sugary drinks 14%
Fruit juices 14%
Dairy desserts 9%
Hot drinks 6%
Chocolate and chocolate bars 6%
Yogurts 5%
Biscuits 5%
Sugary products (sugar, honey, jam…) 4%
Breakfast cereals 4%

Source: Deshayes et al., 2021

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IE

Source

Free sugars
5-12-year-olds

Sugars, confectionery & savoury snacks 26.3%
Biscuits, cakes & pastries 18.0%
Breakfast cereals 11.0%
Milk & yogurt 10.2%
Fruit & fruit juices 10.0%
Beverages 9.6%
Creams, ice-creams & chilled deserts 7.7%

Source: IUNA, National Children’s Food Surveys (2017-18)

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NO

Source

Added sugars intake
9-year-olds

Sugar and sweets 31%
Juice, nectar, soda with sugar 26%
Cakes 15%
Source Added sugars intake
13-year-olds
Sugar and sweets 35%
Juice, nectar, soda with sugar 31%
Cakes 13%

Source: Ungkost 3 (2015)

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PT

Source

Free sugars intake
5-9-year-olds

Sweets 18.2%
Soft drinks 16.0%
Yogurts 11.8%
Cookies 10.6%
Breakfast cereals 10.3%
Milkshakes 10%
Cakes 8.0%
Nectars 5.0%
Table sugar 2.6%
Infant cereals 1.6%
100% fruit juice 2.8%

Source: IAN-AF (2015-16)

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SL

Source

Free sugars intake
10-17-year-olds

Bread and bakery 21.2%
Fruit and vegetable juices 17.1%
Soft drinks 13.4%
Dairy 10.7%
Confectionery 9.2%
Cereal and cereal products 6.2%

Source: Zupanic et al., 2020

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UK

Source

Free sugars intake
4-10-year-olds

Cereal and cereal products 37%
Sugar, preserves and confectionery 23%
Non-alcoholic beverages 18%
(of which 6% from soft drinks not low-calorie)
Milk and milk products 14%
Source

Free sugars intake
11-18-year-olds

Cereal and cereal products 31%
Non-alcoholic beverages 29% (of which 17% from soft drinks not low-calorie)
Sugar, preserves and confectionery 19%
Milk and milk products 9%

Source: NDNS, www.gov.uk (2018-19)

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