Study investigates the success of measures in Germany and the United Kingdom
Sugar reduction in soft drinks making no progress
The mean sugar content of soft drinks in Germany dropped as little as approximately 2 percent during the period from 2015 to 2021, according to a study conducted by the Deutsche Allianz Nichtübertragbare Krankheiten (German Alliance for Non-Communicable Diseases, DANK) in collaboration with researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (LMU).
In 2018, the German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner launched the "National Reduction Strategy" for processed foods. In this context the beverage industry voluntarily committed to reduce the sales-weighted sugar content of its products by 15 percent during the period from 2015 to 2025. The current study shows that up to now the industry is lagging far behind this target. In mathematical terms, a reduction of 9 percent from 2015 to 2021 would have been necessary to stay on track.
“The study clearly shows that the current strategy that is based on self-commitments of the industry is not sufficient to achieve significant reductions in sugar content,” says Michael Laxy, Professor of Public Health and Prevention at TUM, last author of the study together with Prof. Eva Rehfuess (LMU). “At the current pace it would take decades to reach the defined targets.”
According to the study, the mean sales-weighted sugar content of soft drinks in Germany was 5.3 grams per 100 milliliters in 2015, and 5.2 gram per 100 milliliters in 2021. By way of comparison: During the same period in the United Kingdom sugar content dropped from the same 5.3 grams per 100 milliliters to 3.8 grams per 100 milliliters, or by about 30 percent.
“Our data not only illustrate the slow reduction rates in Germany, they also highlight how the process can work elsewhere,” says Dr. Peter von Philipsborn, lead author of the study and scientist at the LMU Chair of Public Health and Health Services Research.
In 2018 the government of the United Kingdom introduced a manufacturer's tax on high-sugar beverages intended to help reduce the sugar content of soft drinks. As of today, more than 50 governments around the world have introduced taxes or levies on sugary beverages. Scientific medical professional societies, the World Health Organization, consumer protection advocates and health insurance carriers have for years recommended the introduction of corresponding regulations in Germany as well.
P. von Philipsborn, O. Huizinga, A. Leibinger, D. Rubin, J. Burns, K. Emmert-Fees, S. Pedron, M. Laxy, E. Rehfuess. „Interim Evaluation of Germany’s Sugar Reduction Strategy for Soft Drinks: Commitments versus Actual Trends in Sugar Content and Sugar Sales from Soft Drinks“. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (2023). DOI: 10.1159/000529592.
In the current study the authors analyzed data from the market research institute Euromonitor International, the recognized market research leader for consumer markets. The scope of the Euromonitor data includes corporate reports, official statistics, market surveys and assessments by industry experts.
The study was funded by the German Association of Child and Adolescent Physicians (Berufsverband der Kinder und Jugendärzte (BVKJ)), the German Diabetes Association (DDG), the German Society for Nutritional Medicine e.V. (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährungsmedizin (DGEM)), of the German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ), the German Society for Social Medicine and Prevention (DGSMP), the German Heart Foundation (Deutsche Herzstiftung), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (LMU) and the German Association of Diabetes Educating and Counselling Professions (Verband der Diabetes-Beratungs- und Schulungsberufe in Deutschland (VDBD)).