Sugar reduction - regulatory challenges
We receive lots of questions about labelling and how the gradual reduction in sugar content of products can be communicated to consumers. Any on-pack claim must comply with legislation, must not be misleading and be chosen from a pre-existing list.
Here are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions we receive:
I am developing a new drink to avoid the UK soft drinks levy. Does this mean that I will be able to put a ‘low in sugars’ claim on my packaging?
Not necessarily! For the soft drinks levy which will come into effect in April 2018 there are essentially three groups:
- Drinks with a sugar content lower than 5g per 100ml will not be subject to the levy
- A lower rate of 18 pence per litre for drinks with a total sugar content between 5 to 8g per 100ml
- A higher rate of 24 pence per litre for drinks with total sugar more than 8g per 100ml
Rules on nutrition claims have not changed. Products for which a company wishes to make an on-pack ‘low sugars’ claim will still need to have less than 2.5g of sugars per 100ml for liquids. This means that it will be possible for drinks companies to be exempt from the sugar levy (because their product has less than 5g /100ml) for a product that does not qualify for a ‘low sugars’ claim.
Could an energy reduced claim be made?
Reduction of the number of calories in products that are likely to be consumed by an individual at one time is one of the ways the sugar reduction targets can be achieved. An energy reduced claim is therefore an appropriate nutrition claim providing the food can satisfy the conditions for the claim laid down in the Annex as follows:
A claim that a food is energy-reduced, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the energy value is reduced by at least 30%, with an indication of the characteristic(s) which make(s) the food reduced in its total energy value. For example ‘30% less calories - low in sugar’ providing the low in sugar claim can also be substantiated.
Could we use ‘Now with 30% less sugar than the original recipe’ without being concerned about regulatory requirements?
‘Now with 30% less sugar than the original recipe’ would have the same meaning for the consumer as a reduced sugar claim and would need to satisfy the conditions of the claim laid down in Regulation 1924/2006 as follows:
A claim stating that the content in sugar has been reduced, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the reduction in content is at least 30% compared to a similar product.
In addition the claim ‘reduced sugars’, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made if the amount of energy of the product bearing the claim is equal to or less than the amount of energy in a similar product.
As there are two elements to this claim then both parts of the regulatory requirement must be adhered to and not just the percentage reduction.