by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sugars

Oct 24 2018

The soda industry is having trouble meeting calorie targets

In 2014, the soda industry (American Beverage Industry, Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper) and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation) pledged to reduce calories in its beverages as a means to help with weight control.  The pledge was to reduce calories in sugary drinks by 20% by 2025.

At the moment, achievement of this goal seems unlikely according to a report by the American Beverage Association and the Alliance. 

The overall summary: a 3 (!) calorie per person per day reduction since 2014.

Plotting the data this way makes the change seem significant, but this industry has a long way to go.

Why isn’t it doing better?  The simple answer: sugary drinks sell and are highly profitable.

The report explains the trends:

  • A decline in consumption of carbonated soft drinks, but an increase in consumption of sugary sports drinks, energy drinks, and ready-to-drink teas and coffees.
  • A decline in retail sales of carbonated soft drinks, but an increase in calories from fountain drinks and food service.
  • An increase in sales of smaller-size containers, but also an increase in sales of larger containers.

The report does not give advertising figures.

I’d like to know which products are getting the most marketing dollars.   Want to take a guess?

Oct 22 2018

Unsavory Truth: A peek at chapter 4

I just got an advance copy of my new book about food company sponsorship of nutrition research and its effects on public health—to be published next week on October 30.

To get a taste (sorry) of the book, here are the first two pages of chapter 4.  If you would like to read the Sugar Association’s letter to me and my reply, I’ve included links to them after this excerpt.

Want to read the rest of the letter and my reply?

Aug 7 2018

Mars Wrigley says you are not eating enough candy. It wants to fix that.

Candy makers, like all food producers, want to sell more of their products.  From the standpoint of Mars Wrigley Confectionary, you need to eat more candy.

By some accounts, the US doesn’t even rank in the top ten countries in per capita candy consumption.  The Census Bureau says the average American—does this mean you?—consumes 22 pounds of candy per year.

Candy sales come in peaks.

Mars—now Mars Wrigley—wants to fix that.

Its research shows that you find the candy aisle difficult to manage.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery surveyed 1,000 Americans last year to understand how Millennials and Baby Boomers experience treats as well as the role of social media in treating.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery has begun working with retailers to put these recommendations into action. The company has created a framework that unlocks the power of confectionery at the point of purchase — online and in-stores.

Its Path to Purchase strategy advises retailers to:

  • Display candy in high-traffic areas
  • Promote key moments with candy brands
  • Maximize promotional space
  • Transition to stand-up pouches (these encourage sales)
  • Use micro-gifts to encourage customers to “shop, ship and secretly gift ‘boo’ packages and build their own ‘boo’ bundles.’”

At the same time,

Mars Wrigley Confectionery knows through its research that consumers view candy as a treat and continue to enjoy it as part of a balanced lifestyle, especially Millennials. In response, it’s important retailers provide consumers with a range of formats, calories and price options to drive sales.

A few examples include:

  • More options for share sizes and resealable packaging.
  • 100-calorie bars and packs, such as those available for SkittlesDoveTwix and Snickers.
  • Low calories gum choices such as ExtraJuicy Fruit and gum.

You are not supposed to notice any of this.  Mars wants you to buy more candy.  You are a lot better off buying less.

If you find yourself buying more candy, take a close look at how and where it is displayed.

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Jun 8 2018

UK report on sugar reduction: “encouraging start”

Public Health England has a report out on how the country’s food industry is doing with its pledges to reduce sugar.

The goal was to reduce sugar in the most popular food products by 20% by 2020:

The results: about a 2% reduction in food products, but an 11% reduction in drinks.

Public Health England considers this an “encouraging start.”

The Guardian says the food industry has failed to meet its targets.

Here’s how Public Health England explains all this:

If this is going to work, all food companies must set targets and take action to meet them.

We could do this here….?

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Jun 4 2018

US vetoes any mention of soda taxes in WHO committee report on preventing noncommunicable (chronic) disease

The AP reports that the reason the WHO committee on preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) did not recommend soda taxes is that the US representative vetoed the idea.

The Trump administration has torpedoed a plan to recommend higher taxes on sugary drinks, forcing a World Health Organization panel to back off the U.N. agency’s previous call for such taxes as a way to fight obesity, diabetes and other life-threatening conditions.

The move disappointed many public health experts but was enthusiastically welcomed by the International Food and Beverage Alliance — a group that represents companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo. and Unilever.

The WHO committee’s report appeared in The Lancet last week.  About soda taxes, it said:

The Commissioners represented rich and diverse views and perspectives. There was broad agreement in most areas, but some views were conflicting and could not be resolved. As such, some recommendations, such as reducing sugar consumption through effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and the accountability of the private sector, could not be reflected in this report, despite broad support from many Commissioners.

It did not include soda taxes in its tax recommendation:

Implement fiscal measures, including raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and consider evidence-based fiscal measures for other unhealthy products.

This omission is striking in view of WHO’s strong previous positions on the need to reduce NCDs as part of the agency’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, and on reducing sugars and taxing sodas as a means to achieve those goals:

Again a US veto?  Recall the infamous incident in 2003 when the US blocked the agency from recommending a reduction in sugar intake.

The US should not be holding WHO hostage to public health measures.

WHO should not be caving in to US threats.

NCDs are the major cause of worldwide death and disability and we need worldwide efforts to prevent them.  This calls for cooperation, not blackmail.

Shame.

May 21 2018

Sugar policy: absurd but apparently permanent

The House version of the farm bill is in a mess right now and there is much to say about both its process (highly politicized) and content (thoughtless, mean-spirited, and just plain nasty).  I will be singling out specific pieces for comment every now and then.

Let’s start with a proposed amendment that the House soundly defeated.  AP reporter Candace Choi succinctly summarized the significance of this defeat: Big Sugar beats back Big Candy.

I’ve discussed our absurd Big Sugar policy in previous posts.

For decades, despite endless reform attempts, U.S. sugar policy has protected the interests of producers of sugar cane and sugar beets.

Basically, current policy maintains the price of domestic sugar at a level higher than the market price in order to protect politically powerful sugar cane growers in Louisiana and Florida, and somewhat less powerful—but far more numerous—growers of sugar beets.

American consumers pay more for sugar, but only an average of $10 per capita per year, not enough to get people upset.

The big losers are candy makers and other commercial users of cane and beet sugars.  Soft drink makers are relatively unaffected because they mostly use high fructose corn sweeteners.

Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) sponsored an amendment to the farm bill that would require the sugar industry to repay the government if and when its loan program operates at a loss.

The sugar program is not supposed to cost taxpayers any money because it keeps prices high enough so that loans get paid back.  But in 2013, prices fell and the USDA had to buy surplus sugar at a loss of $259 million. The Congressional Budget Office says that the sugar program will cost about taxpayers about $76 million over the next decade.

Nevertheless the House defeated the sugar amendment by a vote of 137 to 278.  How come?  Louisiana and Florida are key election states.  Sugar beet growers operate in practically every northern state in the U.S.

The successful fight to defeat the amendment was led by the American Sugar Alliance.  The Washington Post reports how the Alliance paid for an advertising campaign positioning the growers it represents as victims.

A full-page ad in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal featured a picture of two Louisiana sugar planters and the words: “Excluding us from loans available to other crops isn’t ‘modest reform,’ it’s discriminatory. Don’t cut sugar farmers out of the Farm Bill. Oppose harmful amendments.”

And so the House did.

This is only the latest episode in attempts to reform sugar policy.  Chalk this one up as a win for Big Sugar, as Candace Choi so nicely pointed out.

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May 17 2018

Annals of history: medical advice about sugar, 1918

The JAMA issue of May 1 reprints an article first published 100 years ago.  If I hadn’t seen the original date, I would have thought it had just been published for the first time.
The 1918 article is called “Sugar in War Time.”
It was published originally on April 6 that year.  JAMA. 1918;70(14):1003.
It begins:

During recent months, many physicians have been asked regarding the possible effects of the various newly imposed or proposed dietary restrictions or innovations on the health of the individual. … Among other plans for conservation, a reduction in the use of sugar has been urgently requested and, indeed, made inevitable at times when local shortage has curtailed the available supply so that the customary quota is not forthcoming. ..The most pertinent information is that respecting the actual use of sugar in the United States in recent years. The amount consumed in 1917 was approximately 9,100,000,000 pounds, or 88.3 pounds per capita. In 1916 it amounted to 8,300,000,000, or 84.7 pounds per capita. It is thus apparent that if these statistics are correct there has been some increase in the consumption of sugar.

Eighty-eight pounds of sugar per capita used each year represent about 110 gm. (nearly 4 ounces) per day for every man, woman and child in this country. Expressed in terms of food fuel units this is equivalent to 440 calories, a not inconsiderable portion of the daily energy needs of an adult man. The sugar of the daily diet consumed in the measure indicated by the government statistics would furnish one seventh of the food fuel where 3,000 calories are required, and even a larger proportion where the daily energy requirement is put on a lower basis. Four ounces of sugar, as the accusation now stands, is the calorific equivalent of two thirds of a quart of good milk or of eight slices of bread approximating one third of a pound.

When it is recalled that this great per capita consumption of sugar is largely a phenomenon of recent years and the result of the development of an industry whereby the price of the product has been lowered, the necessity for the inclusion of this carbohydrate up to one seventh or even one fifth of the daily energy requirement in the diet will obviously be questioned.

The article concludes with this statement:

Sugar is well utilized in the human organism; from the standpoint of cost its food value is very high, and its popularity need not be debated. But there is no consideration of nutrition that seriously demands so large an inclusion of sugar in the diet or forbids considerable reduction in its use, especially when the best interests of the civilized world demand it.

Apr 9 2018

FoodNavigator on Sugars and Sweeteners

Here is another collection of Food Navigator articles on special topics from a food-industry perspective.

Special Edition: Sugar reduction and sweeteners

Food and beverage manufacturers have a far wider range of sweetening options than ever before, from coconut sugar to allulose, monk fruit and new stevia blends. This special edition looks at the latest market developments, the changing political landscape, formulation challenges and consumer research.

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