U.K. Sugar Tax Not Changing Purchase Behavior

A new study found that the tax has had “little impact” on the way the majority of U.K. consumers shop.

August 17, 2018

LONDON – The United Kingdom’s tax on sugared drinks has had “little impact” on changing consumer behavior, according to a new Nielson study, Food and Drink International reports. The tax, called the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, went into effect in April.

During the past four months, 62% of U.K. consumers say the tax hasn’t made any difference in their consumption of soft drinks, according to Nielson’s Sugar Tax Shopper survey. Only a fifth of shoppers say they now read package information for sugar content more frequently. While 11% of shoppers say they would stop consuming sugared soda ahead of the tax, a mere 1% say the same thing after the tax went into effect.

One of the survey’s most surprising findings was that the number of those who said they would keep buying sugar-sweetened soft drinks blossomed from 31% in February to 44% in June. Before April, the majority of U.K. residents were in favor of the government levy, with some citing a need for even stricter taxes or restrictions on sugared drinks. Since its inception, 69% think it should also include biscuits (cookies) and confectionery (candy).

The number-one health concern in the country continues to be sugar for the fourth year in a row, with the Soft Drinks Industry Levy keeping the issue top of mind. What the survey didn’t address was the fact that many manufacturers already had lowered the amount of sugar in their drinks to squeak under the threshold for the sugar tax.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld Philadelphia’s 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on soda and other sweetened beverages last month. As reported in NACS Daily, California recently passed a law allowing existing soda taxes in cities such as San Francisco and Berkeley to remain in place, while banning all other locales from passing new ones.