Sugar debate rages as Tesco pulls Ribena and Capri-Sun from aisles

Tesco has put a stake in the ground in the debate around marketing, and selling, high-sugar drinks, pledging to pull all juice drinks with added-sugar that are marketed at children from its shelves.

The move will impact brands including Ribena, Capri-Sun and Robinson's Fruit Shoot, with only sugar-free version of their offerings to be sold at the grocer from September.

“We want to help our customers make healthier choices and that’s why we have pledged to continue to cut sugar from the food and drink on our shelves,” a Tesco spokesperson told The Drum.

“From September all the Children’s juice drinks we sell will have no added sugar in them because we know it’ll make a positive difference to children’s health.”

It comes just months after Tesco reduced the sugar content of its own-brand soft drinks by five per cent each year.

Boss Dave Lewis revealed earlier this year that the supermarket has removed three billion calories from its products and was also the first supermarket to remove sweets from its till points.

However, this is the first time it has delisted products.

Marketing sugar to kids

The move points to a wider industry debate on how sugary food and beverages are marketed to children.

The British Heart Foundation is among one of the biggest campaigners, recently calling on the government to introduce a ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed. A recent survey it conducted found 70 per cent of parents with children aged four to 16 have been pestered by to buy high fat and sugar products that have been advertised.

Ian Barber, communications director at the Advertising Association, said the industry has a “huge opportunity” to play a part in discussions.

“Brands, agencies and media together have the reach and influence to make a real difference and our members have committed to working with government to help improve the nation’s health” he said.

It is a challenge that will most impact the likes of Capri-Sun and Ribena, which have traditionally targeted kids with colourful ads featuring fruit characters.

But, a standard 200ml serving of Capri-Sun (orange) contains 10 grams of sugar, while the blackcurrant version has 12.2 grams.

A 200ml carton of Ribena Blackcurrant has 20 grams of sugar, 22 per cent of the recommended daily allowance for an adult.

Moving forward, the extent to which brands such as these will alter their marketing messages on the back of the decision by Tesco is yet to be seen. But as sales for bottled water continue to grow at an unprecedented rate - up 12.6 per cent to £671m in 2014, according to an AG Barr study – it is a move worth considering.

Sugar Puffs, for example, opted to rebrand as Honey Monster Puffs last October in a bid to distance itself from its sugary past after sales plummeted 16 per cent in the first half of that year.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to soon outline a strategy to curb childhood obesity that will mark the start of a renewed government push to foster healthier eating and build on ongoing efforts through Public Health’s Responsibility Deal with the food and drink industry.

If the success in any way mirrors tt’s 2014 Change4Life push - which led to an eight per cent drop in sales of fizzy drinks high in sugar - it could prove a pivitol year for the food and beverage industry.

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