How we reformulated all Tesco soft drinks below the UK Sugar Levy

Philip Banks
Philip Banks
Category Buying Manager: Soft Drinks, Juice & Water

Our Head of Soft Drinks, Phil Banks explains how Tesco became the first retailer to reformulate its own brand soft drinks to below 5 grams of sugar per 100ml.

Reducing sugar in Tesco soft drinks

Later this week, the UK Government’s soft drinks industry levy will come into effect. Across the country, Britain’s shoppers will be looking to see how the levy has changed the price of their favourite soft drinks.

But at Tesco, things won’t be so very different. All our own label soft drinks are already below the threshold for the levy. This means that there will be no price increase in Tesco soft drinks after April 6.

Over the last decade, we’ve been working in partnership with our suppliers to make our own-label soft drinks healthier, by reformulating them to reduce sugar content. This work has meant that we’ve been able to cut over 9 billion calories from customers’ annual diets.

The result? All Tesco brand soft drinks were below the threshold for the new sugar levy some seventeen months before the levy comes into force.

Little helps for healthier living 

Here in the Tesco Soft Drinks team, we’re extremely proud that Tesco was the first retailer to reach this milestone. It was only possible because of the strong relationships we’ve built with our suppliers.

Importantly, the work we’ve been doing to reformulate our products only forms one part of the work we’re doing to help our customers and colleagues live healthier lives. Looking after the health of our colleagues and customers is a longstanding aim at Tesco.

In recent years, we’ve developed a strong and leading health strategy which has seen us being the first and only supermarket to remove sweets from all of our checkouts, offering free fruit to children in our larger stores and investing in making healthier choices easier and cheaper.

In January, we also kicked off a groundbreaking five year partnership with The British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK aimed at bringing about behaviour change to improve health.

We have helped to ensure our customers' baskets contain healthier food by driving down the cost of fruit and vegetables. Over the last few years we have launched our Perfectly Imperfect range of ‘wonky’ fruit and veg plus a new range of farm brands – helping customers find great tasting fresh food at affordable prices.  

Through our Peas Please pledge we've committed to increasing the amount of veg through recipe development and introducing new products. By reformulating our own brands to reduce levels of sugar, salt and fat, we’ve removed over 8,000 tonnes of sugar, fat and salt from over 2,000 of our products since January 2015.

Branded soft drink products

As well as the work we’ve done to reduce sugar in our own brand soft drinks, many branded soft drinks have also been reformulated, but for those which have more than 5g sugar per 100ml the sugar tax will apply.

This means some branded drinks may be more expensive or come in a smaller serving size. At Tesco, we want to offer choice to every customer. We will continue to stock a full range of branded soft drinks. However, when the levy starts, we estimate 85% of the drinks we sell at Tesco will be exempt. 

Promoting reduced sugar products

Our Little Helps for Healthier Living campaign aims to help make it easier for customers to make healthier choices every time they shop with us. The prominence of low sugar drinks can make a big difference to what our customers choose. To help reduce sugar for our customers we’re giving more space, on our shelves, than ever before to low sugar alternatives. We've already increased space for our “on the go” ranges by 20%.

Our website has also been rated best supermarket website for low-sugar fizzy drinks. The Grocer says we've the widest selection of low-sugar drinks, using innovative technology from SpoonGuru to help customers make healthier choices online.

Every little help makes a big difference

By taking this holistic approach to health, we are working to support government health targets in every country we operate in, including those set by Public Health England, and ultimately we want to play an active role in helping achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 and cut avoidable deaths by a third by 2030.

We remain committed to helping our colleagues and customers live healthier lives and we’re proud of the way we’ve led the way on reformulating soft drinks. Healthier baskets mean happier customers and that’s something we can all raise a glass to.


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