Diet drink sales soar in sugar tax wake

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Retailers are reporting a surge in sales of reduced-calorie soft drinks, two months after the government’s Soft Drinks Levy came into force on 6 April.

In Seaford, West Sussex, Seaford News owner Bipin Haria said that sales of Diet Coke were now outstripping sales of the regular variant.

“I think the change is being driven by the price,” he said. “Since the levy a regular 500ml bottle of Coke sells for £1.25 compared with £1.09 or two for £2 for a bottle of Diet Coke,” he told C-Store.

“We have quite a few school-age customers who are naturally more price conscious because of limited budgets and I think that a large proportion of sales of diet products are being driven by them.”

Manny Patel of Manny’s in Long Ditton, Surrey, also said that sales of reduced-sugar drinks were on the up. “Sales of Diet Coke are definitely growing and it’s being driven by price, not health reasons. The £1.25 for a 500ml bottle of regular Coke is just too much of a jump for some people,” he said.

Wilson Rea of KeyStore More in Lanark agreed. “Sales of diet variants are up since the levy was enforced and so are bottled water sales. Sales of reduced-calorie options now account for a larger share of my sales than regular full-sugar drinks do,” he said.

According to forecasts by Coca-Cola European Partners, by the end of 2018 the UK will be the first country in the world where more than 50% of the Coca-Cola sold will be no- and low-sugar.

Jerry Tweney, owner of Prestbury Village Stores near Cheltenham, said sales of all carbonates had dropped off due to the levy. “Since the sugar tax, we are finding it’s a struggle to sell carbonates as people are choosing to drink water, flavoured water and squash.

“If you’re a customer you just assume all carbonates have gone up in price as it’s difficult for them to tell the difference between what has 8g of sugar and what hasn’t. Unless it’s on promotion or PMP, carbonates in general are slow moving.”

Opinion

“Sales of reduced sugar soft drinks are rising week on week. People are becoming increasingly health conscious but that is a trend we would have been noticing anyway. I think the levy has just accelerated it.”

Dave Brunt, Londis, Birches Head, Stoke on Trent

“There has been a shift towards lower-calorie and water-based drinks. Reformulated products such as Irn-Bru are not doing well, though.”

Des Barr, Sinclair Barr News, Paisley

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