UNESDA Position on Soft Drinks Taxation

The European soft drinks sector is committed to playing a meaningful role in the fight against overweight and obesity.

Our sector is creating a healthier food environment by offering a wide range of products with reduced calories and reduced sugar that can support people in managing their calorie and sugar intake. For many years, our industry has made far-reaching commitments to reduce the average added sugar content of its drinks and promote moderate consumption. UNESDA was the first, and to date only, sector to respond to the EU’s 2015 call for a 10% reduction in added sugars by 2020.

Our sector is committed to continuing its actions to reformulate existing products, innovate to develop new products with lower sugar profiles, place promotion behind low- and no-calorie options to nudge consumer behaviour, and reduce pack sizes to help portion control. Therefore, we have undertaken a new sugar reduction commitment to reduce average added sugars in our soft drinks (per 100ml) by an additional 10% between 2019 and 2025 in the EU-27 and the UK. This builds on past sugar reduction milestones that we achieved from 2000 to 2015 (13.3% reduction on average) and since 2015 (17.7% reduction on average).

Overweight and obesity are complex issues with multi-factorial causes requiring a multi-stakeholder approach with governments, industry, the healthcare community and civil society, among others, working together. The complexity of obesity does not lend itself to an isolated, simplistic solution like a selective tax on soft drinks.

Taxation policies targeting soft drinks are unlikely to help governments in achieving their public health objectives and improving the health status of their citizens.

Soft drinks taxes are an unfair and discriminatory measure to raise additional state funds, hitting low-income consumers, hurting local businesses, while not providing any tangible solution to public health-related issues. 

Moreover, targeting all soft drinks, rather than only those with high levels of sugars, is likely to discourage industry initiatives to offer sugar-reduced options, potentially creating substitution effects with worrying health implications.

UNESDA urges governments to consider other more collaborative and impactful tools.

Want to learn more? Here’s why our sector questions the effectiveness of taxes on soft drinks in promoting healthier lifestyles:

Share this post