Businesses unite against soft drinks tax

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A coalition of British businesses has come together to call on the Government to axe former Chancellor George Osborne’s impending levy on sugary drinks.

The ‘Face the Facts, Can the Tax’ campaign aims to highlight the damaging economic consequences of the tax and urge the Government to rethink the policy and focus instead on proven solutions that will address obesity.

The group includes soft drinks manufacturers, wholesalers, small shops, newsagents, restaurants, bars and pubs. It is warning the tax will do nothing to tackle obesity, and risks causing thousands of job losses and higher prices for those who can least afford it.

The campaign launch comes as a new report from Oxford Economics highlights the potential economic damage the proposed soft drinks tax will have on British industry. The report predicts a loss of more than 4,000 jobs across the UK and a decline of £132m in economic output.

The same report predicts that calorie consumption will drop by five calories per person per day as a result of the tax – the equivalent of a bite of an apple. Meanwhile, between 2004 and 2014, sales of ‘full sugar’ soft drinks fell 44%, and now contribute less than 3% of calories in the diet, yet obesity increased by around 4% in this same period.

The Scottish Grocers Federation has thrown its weight behind the campaign. Its Chief Executive, Pete Cheema, said: “This measure by the former Chancellor completely ignores the efforts taken by the soft drinks industry to reformulate their products, promote low or no calorie alternatives, and the commitment not to advertise high sugar soft drinks to under-16s.

Additionally – and of great concern to retailers – this is likely simply to pass on the cost to consumers and further put at risk the viability of independent convenience stores in Scotland.’’

Gavin Partington, Director General of the British Soft Drinks Association who are providing funding for the campaign, echoed Cheema’s concerns: “We know from the evidence around the world where they’ve tried a tax that it will not make a difference to obesity. What it will do, as this report shows, is damage thousands of businesses across the entire soft drinks supply chain, from farmers, to manufacturers, to convenience stores and the pub and restaurant trade.’’