James Wilson
James is a Research Analyst covering several sectors for Mintel Ireland. His specialist areas include all things digital, social media and consumer shopping habits.

Sugar is the ingredient that causes the greatest level of worry among Irish consumers, with 64% of consumers in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland concerned about it, according to Mintel’s Irish research on Healthy Lifestyles.

In April 2018, the governments of Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland will introduce a sugar tax to help reduce consumption of sugar sweetened drinks, considered by health professionals amongst the main sources of sugar within consumers’ diets. Under the proposals, soft drinks companies will pay an extra tax for drinks with a 5% or greater sugar content, and they will pay even more for drinks with a 8% or higher sugar content. This means that an 18 pence/20 cent levy will be introduced on drinks that have 5g of sugar per 100ml, while a 24 pence/30 cent levy will be added to those that contain 8g or more per 100ml.

Would a sugar tax work?

Although there is some debate about the effectiveness of sugar taxes, research from the University of North Carolina and the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico found a 5.5% decline in the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages in the first year after the sugar tax was introduced in 2014. This was followed by a 9.7% reduction in the second year, averaging 7.6% over the two-year period. Mintel’s Soft Drinks Irish report notes that one in five Irish consumers would stop drinking sugar sweetened beverages altogether, should a tax on sugar sweetened drinks be introduced, while a third would cut back on the amount of these products that they consume.

A proactive approach

Soft drinks companies have adopted a proactive approach and continue to take steps to reduce the sugar content of their products. For example, Coca-Cola’s Fanta brand, which contained 10 grams of sugar five years ago, now falls under the 5-gram threshold set out in the upcoming sugar tax. The drinks brand also announced that it will launch three new lower-sugar drinks brands in the UK throughout 2018 – Fuzetea, AdeZ and Honest Coffee – in response to the forthcoming sugar tax, to help consumers make healthier choices and to play a positive role in reducing health issues.