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Coca-Cola To Pass On 'Majority' Of Sugar Tax

| Economic factors

Coca-Cola has told Sky News it would expect to pass on the "majority" of the Government's planned sugar tax to its customers.

In an exclusive interview, Jon Woods, the company's general manager for the UK and Ireland, said while no decisions had been made yet it was likely that shoppers would have to pick up the bulk of the cost.

The move was a surprise measure in the Chancellor's last Budget given the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron had been lukewarm on the idea before deciding the threat from obesity was on a par with smoking.

George Osborne proposed a tax of 18p-24p per litre on sugary drinks from 2018.

It was a response to calls for such a clampdown from health professionals.

Government figures show there are now more than four million diabetics in Britain and two thirds of adults are overweight.

Obesity is now costing the NHS £6bn and diabetes £10bn.

According to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, more than 90% of households consume more "added sugar" than recommended, and that soft drinks account for 17% of those purchases.

Mr Woods told Ian King Live he stood by the industry's view that a sugar tax on purely soft drinks was not the answer.

"I think there are much more effective ways, that we have been following as a company in the UK for a number of years, that actually help people reduce their sugar consumption. 

"Primarily that's about changing recipes of our drinks to gradually reduce the sugar level in them whilst maintaining a great taste.

"If I look at the last five years as an example, we've reduced the sugar in 27 of our leading drinks, every time maintaining a great taste profile but always, always,always helping consumers to consume less sugar".

He cited one example with Coca-Cola Zero, which contains no sugar, being relaunched at a marketing cost of £10m to promote that fact following a change to its recipe to make it taste more like the original Coca-Cola. 

Mr Woods said there was no evidence that a "narrow" sugar tax on soft drinks had had any impact on obesity worldwide.

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