Message from Peter Harding

President of UNESDA and CEO of Suntory Beverage & Food International

The 2024 European elections will mark a significant political transformation for EU citizens and businesses. I have great hope that this will bring a heightened response from the EU to the complex economic, geopolitical and climate challenges we face. I see it as an opportunity to drive wider positive change for the environment and consumers in a realistic way and support the industry on the path toward sustainable growth.As we embark on a new political cycle, I am thrilled to unveil the European soft drinks sector’s top policy ambitions for 2024-2029, outlined in UNESDA’s Manifesto. We will be driven by our unwavering commitment to advancing sustainability and promoting healthier lifestyles. We will also strive to sustain our competitive position as a sector with a strong local dimension (over 500 production sites in Europe), actively contributing to prosperity and employment in Europe by supporting over 1.8 million jobs, both directly and throughout our supply chain.

As a sector, we produce more than 97% of the soft drinks within the EU, from household names and heritage brands, through to distinctive drinks with local flavours. We are a constructive sector and will actively engage with all stakeholders to build a more sustainable and healthier food and drink environment for Europeans within a supportive regulatory environment. We all know that only with enabling and science-based policies, based on thorough impact assessments, will we achieve meaningful progress together. Let’s join forces to make further positive impact.

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Ambition 1

A more sustainable and competitive soft drinks sector

We are a front-runner in setting – and then going on to deliver – voluntary commitments to create a healthier and more sustainable food and drink environment. We recognise our responsibility to our consumers, our society and our planet, and we are committed to driving positive change.

An enabling policy framework is crucial to support us in delivering sustainable food systems, whilst allowing our sector to remain globally competitive and equipping it to deal with today’s market realities and future pressures.

We call on policymakers to:

Establish a streamlined legislative approach, providing regulatory certainty with workable timescales, ensuring new legislation is science-based, and undertaking appropriate and thorough impact assessments.
Secure a strong single market at the heart of EU policy, with uniform implementation of EU food and environmental legislation.
Promote fairness across the food supply chain to ensure everyone plays their part and there is no discrimination against any specific food, drink or ingredient.


Ambition 2

Helping Europeans to lead healthier lifestyles

Our sector has committed to help citizens in leading healthier lifestyles, including supporting them to better manage their sugar, salt and fat intake.

The wide variety of soft drinks – many of which contain no, or few, calories – encourage balanced diets, while providing enjoyment and hydration. Our principal focus is to continue our long and successful journey of promoting responsible marketing practices directed at children and achieving sugar reduction through different levers, including reformulation, offering smaller pack sizes and nudging the consumer towards no- and low-calorie soft drinks.

We have pledged to reduce average sugars in our soft drinks by a further 10% between 2019 and 2025 in the EU-27 and the UK (already reaching a 7.6% reduction in 2022).

We support an EU agenda based on a multi-stakeholder approach and science-based policies, which directs Europeans towards a more balanced diet.

We call on policymakers to:

Ensure up-to-date and reliable pan-European monitoring of food and drink consumption intakes and patterns to better understand what interventions can be effective.
Develop evidence-based policies that do not discriminate against ingredients approved as safe for use by health authorities, and which enable food innovation.
Support science-based, harmonised and non-discriminatory labelling policies to help consumers make informed choices.


Ambition 3

Driving environmental sustainability throughout our value chain

Our sector drives sustainability throughout its value chain – from production to distribution. We fully support the EU ambitious climate goals and the objective of building a sustainable Europe by 2030.

UNESDA members have focussed on reducing their environmental footprint for decades, with investments resulting in the reduction (and reuse, when applicable) of energy, carbon emissions, water and raw materials as well as actions to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems.

Our sector also continuously improves the sustainability of its packaging through reduction, collection, recycling, reuse and refill. UNESDA’s Circular Packaging Vision for 2030 sets a series of ambitions to make our packaging recyclable by 2025, to incorporate more recycled content in our PET bottles and to reach 90% collection of all our packaging by 2030.

We call on policymakers to:

Ensure well-designed collection schemes and a sufficient supply of food-grade feedstock for recycling to enable closed-loop recycling, when appropriate.
Incentivise investments in carbon emission reduction (renewable energy, increased access to low-carbon energy, collection and recycling infrastructure).
Put water high on the political agenda and encourage investments in infrastructure promoting the conservation and restoration of water resources and providing fair and equitable access to water for citizens and businesses.


How much does the soft drink industry contribute to the European economy and citizens?