Calls for a tax on soft drinks misguided

The Australian Beverages Council, and the Australian Association of Convenience Stores have rejected a call for a tax on soft drinks.

The Australian Beverages Council, National Retail Association and the Australian Association of Convenience Stores have rejected a call for a tax on soft drinks, labelling it a misguided measure that won’t address obesity and hit those households that can least afford it.

Geoff Parker, CEO of the Australian Beverages Council said, “The tax is a misguided attempt to address complex problems like obesity with a simplistic, quick fix that lacks real world evidence it has any discernible impact on weight. Consumption of sugar from drinks in Australia has decreased significantly over a 20-year period at the same time obesity, overweight and diabetes rates have continued to rise. Clearly soft drinks aren’t driving the nation’s expanding waistline which makes this call for a tax illogical and clearly just a revenue raiser.”

“The last National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey in 2011-12 showed that soft drinks were ranked seventh in kilojoule contribution from discretionary food and drinks for children, and eighth for adults. If the public health organisations were serious about addressing obesity and overweight, we’d recommend they started at the top of the lists where discretionary kilojoules are coming from.”

David Stout, Director of Policy at the National Retail Association said, “This type of discriminatory tax will only add pressure to household budgets at a time when most families are struggling with soaring cost of living pressures. The introduction of any sugar tax will have significant impacts on small and family businesses, from retailers to farmers and particularly in rural and regional areas of Australia. Tax policy should not be made up without consultation, without any significant economic impact analysis, including whether it will achieve its goals and how it would affect businesses.”

CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores, Theo Foukkare said, “Across the country drinks fridges in convenience stores and petrol stations are evolving and today include a wide variety of low and no sugar options. Consumers today have an extensive variety of drink options and know what’s best for them and their families.”

In 2018 the Australian Beverages Council along with the nation’s largest non-alcoholic drink companies announced Australia’s first Sugar Reduction Pledge – a commitment to reduce sugar across their portfolios by 25 per cent from 2015 to 2025. As of 31 December 2022, pledge signatories had reduced sugar across portfolios by 18 per cent. This significant progress shows an industry that is responding with speed and scale to Australians’ desire for more choices with less sugar.

“The reduction in sugar has been achieved without price hikes to the weekly supermarket shop or making buying a drink more expensive when people are out and about. Since 2015 bottled water sales has outstripped sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drink sales and since 2022 no and low sugar drinks have accounted for more than half of all drink sales,” said Parker.

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