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High Street Food & Drink Brands Join Forces to Tackle Sugar Reduction

17 Jan 2018 Sustainability

Alliance of out-of-home dining companies launch a Code of Practice and commit to changes in health & wellness programmes including a sugar reduction target of 20%, as set out in the Childhood Obesity Plan.

Today an alliance of the largest food and beverage brands on the UK’s high streets have launched a Code of Practice which sets out commitments from a representative industry group, including sugar reduction. The companies include Caffè Nero, Costa, Greggs, McDonald’s, Mitchells & Butlers, Pizza Hut Delivery (YUM!), Premier Inn, Starbucks, Wetherspoons, and Whitbread Restaurants.

The Code, drawn up by a working group from all the participating companies, includes a series of commitments driving responsible behaviour in product development and customer marketing. The ambition is to support the whole out-of-home sector to change its attitude to food and beverage development, building on the long experience of the founder member brands. Each company in the alliance will:

  • Aim to achieve Public Health England’s sugar reduction target of 20% by 2020, as set out in the Childhood Obesity Plan
  • Innovate with new products and reformulate recipes to reduce sugar
  • Offer a variety of choice and lighter options to support the “5 a day” message
  • Run responsible promotions, continuing to adhere to the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP), Ofcom and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) codes for advertising to children
  • Implement ‘nudge’ tactics that encourage customers to make healthier choices
  • Offer healthier children’s products or menus
  • Provide clear, easy to understand, and readily available nutritional information
  • Work with trade associations and other industry bodies to lead the industry forward

This new Code of Practice, which has been reviewed by the British Nutrition Foundation, an independent expert body which will also advise the alliance on its progress against the set of commitments in the Code, acknowledges that consumers are increasingly looking for a wide range of choice, and that clear, transparent, nutritional information should be readily available when eating out. The out-of-home Alliance highlights commitments from each of these companies to make changes to existing product line-ups, and develop new products which contain lower levels of sugar, calories, saturated fat and/or salt content, without compromising on flavour.

An alliance spokesperson said: “We’re proud of this Code of Practice for the out of home dining sector, which has been drawn up with input by businesses from pub chains to coffee shops. These pledges will positively benefit the millions of customers we welcome into our stores and restaurants every day, to help make a significant collective impact. We’re pleased that by working together we have been able to make strong commitments to reduce sugar. We now call on other businesses in our sector, large and small, to join us in adopting the code.”

Prof Judy Buttriss, Director General of the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “We really welcome this development which recognises the important role these major high street brands in the out-of-home sector can play in improving the nation’s diet. There is a need to ensure that healthier options are always prominent, attractive and affordable, and to encourage others in the sector, large and small, to follow this lead. BNF has developed on-line training that can support companies on this journey”.


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Since 2015, Whitbread Restaurants have implemented a strategic approach to sugar reduction focusing on menu choice and reformulation. Strawberry frozen yoghurts and mini desserts have been introduced to our menus as healthier options for our guests and these dishes have reduced the overall sugar average for the desserts category in Brewers Fayre by 16% over the last year.

In addition, we have also carried out significant reformulation work to reduce sugar in individual ingredients in our most popular dishes and this has resulted in a 17% reduction of sugar per portion in our Brewers Fayre vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and a 9% reduction in our Brewers Fayre chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream with chocolate and toffee sauces has reduced by 9% since 2015.


In 2015, Costa pledged to our customers to reduce added sugar by 25% in all handcrafted drinks and by 30% in ice drinks by 2020. To achieve this, we have an ongoing reformulation programme that has already shown a 14% reduction in handcrafted drinks such as hot chocolate, coffees with sugar free syrup (caramel being our highest demand flavour) Frostino and cooler ranges. Calorie content has also been reviewed in our drinks range and we made the decision to not offer a Massimo size in our Christmas hot chocolate range. This has been supported by encouraging customers towards lower or no added sugar drinks such as Cold Brew and Nitro coffees supported by promotional campaigns.

We are continuously improving the nutritional content of our food particularly on popular products, for example chocolate tiffin where we have achieved a 7.8% sugar reduction per portion since July 2017 through reformulation and a change in the component ingredients such as a lower sugar biscuit. This has resulted in nearly three tonnes of total sugar removed without any further increase in fat or calories.


Banana & Walnut Loaf Cake

In September last year we developed a new loaf cake with a lower sugar profile. This work, combined with the removal of the layer of icing from the top of the cake enabled us to achieve a 32% reduction in sugar per portion.


In January 2016 Starbucks announced a target to reduce added sugar in indulgent beverages by 25% by the end of 2020.

We have already made significant progress towards this objective: –

  • At least a 10% reduction in added sugar in our Frappuccino range
  • 15% reduction in White Chocolate Mocha range
  • 5% reduction in our core syrups
  • 20% less sugar in any new syrup innovations
  • We introduced a new range of chilled coffees (Cold Brew & Nitro Draft Cold Brew) and Classic Teavana Iced Teas which either have zero sugar or versions that are lightly sweetened
  • In November 2016 we introduced the “short” size to our menu and stopped promoting the Venti size on our more indulgent products/product promotions
  • In July 2017, we introduced a smaller Mini Frappuccino size to our menu’s and introduced communication on our menu board to help customers make their Frappuccino “lighter”
  • We offer sugar-free versions of our core syrups
  • 63% of all beverages sold in the UK in 2016 contained zero added sugar

During 2016, Starbucks also committed to reduce sugar across our bakery range by 20% by end 2020 in support of the Childhood Obesity Plan.

The results achieved up to August 2017 represent an overall weighted sales sugar reduction of 6.2% (vs 2015 baseline data). Reformulation of our morning goods and cookies resulted in a 18.3% and 5.3% reduction in sugar/100g respectively. We also relaunched our Carrot Cake in March 2017 with a 16% sugar reduction, loaf cakes in November 2017 with a 6-17% sugar reduction across the range and introduced a range of mini cakes in November 2017 with less than 300Kcal/ portion. Further reformulation work is planned for 2018.


In May 2015 Greggs successfully launched an exceptional healthy sub brand in “Balanced Choice”, giving our customers a range of tasty products whilst signposting and promoting healthier food choices. Demonstrating the businesses commitment to providing healthier options, with clearer nutritional labelling which are balanced in calories, sugar, saturated fat and salt.

Classification of ‘Balanced Choice’ must meet the following criteria with no compromise on delivering great tasting food:

  • Less than 400kcals
  • Meets Green/Amber using the DOH Traffic Light system.
  • Suitable for advertising to children

In 2016 sales of over £100m of sales were achieved demonstrating how effective this way of delivering a healthy alternative has been. This includes a modification of the range of products sold with all Greggs Brand cold drinks having ‘no added sugar’, replacing products which had added sugar. The latest addition being the Cold Pressed Juices which also meet the criteria as one of the five a day portions of fruit and vegetables.


At McDonald’s we take the wellbeing of our customers, especially children, very seriously and we’ve worked hard to improve recipes across our entire menu, without compromising on the taste that our customers love.

Our average children’s meal sold in 2016 contained 21.2% less salt, 10.7% less saturated fat, 16.9% less sugar, compared with the average Happy Meal sold in 2006.

Since broadening our children’s drink range, the percentage of Happy Meals purchased containing a sugared fizzy drink has dropped by over 55%.

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