Our sector has an obligation to behave responsibly in the sales and marketing of its products. UNESDA members have taken a lead in calorie and sugar reduction across their brands. They have also taken bold, self-regulatory initiatives in addressing advertising and marketing to children, and in behaving responsibly in schools. Read further to learn about our specific initiatives, including our Commitments to the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health:
EU Farm to Fork Strategy – making healthier diets the easy choice
by Helen Benson, Regulatory Affairs Director, UNESDA
The COVID-19 crisis has brought the essential nature of Europe’s food and drink industry into sharp focus. Despite the unprecedented challenges of lockdowns and restrictions on movement across the continent, the food and drink sector has managed to maintain supply and ensure that the EU’s 450 million citizens continue to be fed and refreshed.
The EU should be proud of the way in which the entire supply chain has pulled together – from farmers and producers through to manufacturers, distributors and retailers. The soft drinks sector is a local industry with local suppliers and plants and has worked with literally thousands of people to ensure that its products continue to reach the shelves. We have very much appreciated the clear guidance and support provided by the EU institutions in helping stakeholders navigate the crisis and its long-lasting effects on our economy and way of life.
Sugar and calorie reduction
Soft drinks companies have made significant investments in reformulation and new product development to reduce sugar and calories. No- and low-calorie versions now represent over 24 % of soft drinks sales across Europe – and over 40% in several markets.
UNESDA members delivered significant reductions from 2000-2015 and pledged a further 10% reduction by the end of 2020. (link to press release). A mid-term evaluation by independent auditors Global Data shows an average kcal/sugar reduction of 11,9% per 100ml from 2015-2017. (link to press release).
Providing consumers with clear nutrition labelling
UNESDA is committed to supporting Europeans in leading healthy and active lifestyles. Soft drinks producers provide their customers with accurate, easily understandable information on the nutritional composition of the drinks that they buy for themselves and their families.
In 2008 the sector committed to providing sector-wide full ‘Guideline Daily Amount’ nutritional labelling front-of-pack – several years ahead of the EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation 1169/2011 which made full, ‘back-of-pack’ nutrition information mandatory.
Let’s take a closer look:
- Guideline Daily Amount labelling (also sometimes referred to as ‘Reference Intake’ labelling) includes the amount of calories and sugars provided per serving and per 100ml as a percentage of the independently assessed ‘Guideline Daily Amounts’ for an average person for calories and sugar. This transparent, at-a-glance information helps people to balance their intake of calories and nutrients (including sugars) throughout the day.
- The EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation 1169/2011 introduced mandatory nutrition labelling per 100ml and per serving, with a minimum font size and in tabular form.
- Europe’s soft drinks industry also indicates prominently on pack when products are low- or no-calorie – in line with the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (1924/2006).
- UNESDA believes we need an EU-wide, harmonised, evidence-based scheme that, above all else, is meaningful, informative and relevant to consumers.
No sales in primary schools and no sugary drinks in secondary schools
Original commitments in schools 2006
- Avoid engaging in any direct commercial activity in primary schools, unless otherwise requested by school authorities.
- In secondary schools:
- Unbranded vending machines, respecting the commercial-free nature of schools
- Ensure that a full range of beverages is available including no and low-sugar varieties, water and juices
- Involve parents and educators in the choice of beverages available
2017 further commitment
- In secondary schools, offer only no- and low-calorie drinks for sale
No advertising to children under 12
UNESDA members have not advertised their products to children under 12 since 2006. Not on TV, in print, on the radio or online. No advertising in cinema’s on digital media were added to the commitment in 2008 and 2010 respectively in response to the evolution of media channels.
The Commitment recognises that parents and caregivers wish to retain responsibility for what their children eat and drink. We do not advertise in programming or media targeted at children under 12.
Original commitment 2006
- No marketing communication in printed media, websites or during broadcast programmes specifically aimed at children under 12
- Avoid any direct appeal to children in marketing communications
Changes and developments updated in 2010
- In 2008 UNESDA extended the advertising commitment to include cinemas
- In 2010 UNESDA extended the advertising commitment to include the digisphere and company owned websites. It also tightened the audience criteria and committed to no advertising when 35% of the audience or more was under 12 years of age.
Independent monitoring confirms the following compliance levels:
Choice and availability
The European soft drinks industry offers a wide variety of soft drinks – many of which contain no, or few calories – encouraging balanced diets, while providing enjoyment and hydration. It also provides a host of different packaging options and pack sizes that allow people to choose a product to suit their lifestyle and energy needs. In particular it has invested in offering individual packs offering the same, or less than the standard 330ml can.
- Increase number of new products with low/no calories
- Increase choice and availability of individual pack sizes and cup downsizing
UNESDA Commitments to the EU Platform
UNESDA was a founding member of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health when it was established in 2005. The sector made far-reaching Commitments to the EU Platform in 2006 and has expanded these over subsequent years. The sector monitors its compliance levels on a regular basis using independent, third party auditors such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
UNESDA is just one of four organizations to have been named and praised by the EU Consumer Protection Commissioner for its Commitments on tackling obesity made in the framework of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.
The UNESDA Commitments bind industry signatories to act responsibly across the EU in four key areas:
No advertising to children under 12
Responsible behaviour in schools
Clear calorie and nutrition information
Provide choice and availability