A claim that a tax of 10% on sugary drinks will reduce long-term consumption by 10% is not backed up by the facts, says the Food & Grocery Council.

Otago University researchers say this in a report after looking at places where taxes on sugary drinks have been applied: four cities in US, Catalonia in Spain, and Chile, France and Mexico.

They said that after combining the results there was “compelling evidence that sugary drink taxes result in decreased sales, purchasing or dietary intake of taxed beverages” and that “
for a 10% tax, sugary drink volumes declined by an average of 10 per cent”.

FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich says there may have been a reduction in consumption in the short-term, but over time that is not sustained.

“We have seen sales figures from Mexico, the first place to introduce a tax, and they show that though there was an initial drop of 3%, within a year, sales were back to pre-tax levels.

“You can’t disagree with sales figures, and that’s what they show. There was an initial consumer reaction but over time sales crept back up and in the end the tax made no dent in consumption.

“It didn’t work there and it won’t work here. Certainly in Ohio and Maine, the research concluded there was no noticeable effect”

“Most New Zealand consumers have got the message about switching to some of the many no- or low-sugar drinks now available. Consumption of sugary drinks has dropped more significantly than in any of the countries that have tried a tax, simply because the message to reduce is getting through and there are now more no- and low-sugar options available. In fact, while consumption has been falling in the absence of a tax, obesity rates have been climbing or static.

“This has been helped by the fact that FGC members do not sell sugary drinks to schools (since 2010) or target their advertising at children.”

You can read more on sugar taxes in the Projects and Resources sections of our website