Convenience retailers are reporting businesses as usual, in the first few days after the long-anticipated Soft Drinks Levy was enforced on 6 April.
Under the two-band tax, which is levied on the manufacturer, drinks containing more than 8g of added sugar per 100ml are now taxed at 24p per litre - equating to about 10p per 330ml can when tax is added, while those with 5-8g of sugar per 100ml are taxed at 18p per litre.
Products with less than 5g of added sugar are exempt, along with fruit juices, products without added sugar, and dairy-based drinks.
“Shoppers just appear to be getting on with it and buying what they usually do despite the higher prices for some items,” said Bipin Harria of Seaford News in West Sussex. “I managed to bulk buy some price-marked packs of Coca Cola at £1.09 prior to the tax but I can’t say that they are selling loads faster than they normally would, and that’s despite the local Co-op selling them at the higher price of £1.39.”
“I was already seeing a gradual rise in sales of low calorie options prior to the tax being enforced and I expect to see that continue over the coming months but I think a lot of that will be down to the general health and wellness trend and not so much about higher prices,” he added.
In Eastcombe Stores, Gloucestershire, owner Mike Dorey said it was still too early to notice any significant impact on sales. “I do expect to see a gradual shift towards more low calorie options over time though,” he said.
“Shoppers are very willing to boost their health and lifestyle at the moment so I expect habits to change and demand for reduced sugar options to grow over time, especially if they are cheaper to buy,” he said.
In Surrey, Weybridge News owner Jamie Patel said the new higher prices hadn’t yet filtered down to her store. “We were still able to buy products at the old price from the cash and carry last week so it’s not yet had an impact.
“We will be monitoring customer reactions and sales data in the following weeks to see how the eventual price rises do impact on sales although I’m not expecting the change to be that dramatic,” she said.
To see which brands have been either reformulated or unchanged see our feature here