Media release: First they came for Irn Bru

Media release
16 January, 2018

Wellington (16 January 2018): The New Zealand Initiative is concerned that sugar tax advocates are misleading the public by pretending to punish manufacturers rather than consumers.

Responding to renewed calls for a sugar tax, policy analyst Jenesa Jeram says there are still no grounds for introducing such a tax in New Zealand.

Jeram says that trying to regulate the sugar content of sugary drinks, as University of Waikato researcher Dr Lynne Chepulis recommends, is likely to have unintended consequences.

In the United Kingdom, such product reformulations have been deeply unpopular. A recent announcement that the Scottish favourite Irn Bru will be reducing its sugar content has seen customers stockpiling their beloved beverage. A reformulation of Lucozade in the UK has also seen sales plummet.

Jeram points out “Trying to pitch a sugar tax as a tax on manufacturers is disingenuous. What we are going to end up with is either a bunch of inferior products on the market that consumers do not want, or sugary drinks will continue to be available at a higher cost to consumers.”

“The trend for introducing sugar taxes overseas is growing faster than the evidence base that the tax will reduce obesity. The evidence that is coming in is that manufacturers who reformulate their products face the risk of consumer backlash. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon, New Zealand should be waiting to see whether the sugar taxes overseas are actually improving health outcomes.”

“Kiwis might not understand the appeal of Irn Bru in Scotland, but we sure know what it’s like when our favourite brands try and force change upon us. Let’s not pretend for a second that this is a change consumers want. The beverage market is already flowing with low sugar or zero sugar alternatives for those who want them.”

Read more about why New Zealand should not introduce a sugar tax:
The Health of the State


Jenesa Jeram is available for interviews, please contact:

Linda Heerink, Communications Officer
The New Zealand Initiative
Phone: +64 4 494 9109
Mobile: +64 21 172 8036

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