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Brighton brings in sugar tax

The University of Brighton becomes the first in the country to introduce a sugar tax on campus

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | April 11, 2018 | Catering & hospitality

The news comes in the wake of the Government introducing a ‘soft drinks industry levy’ and their expectation that retailers will pass on the levy to customers, a move designed to tackle the growing problem of obesity.  

More than a year ago, the University introduced its own 10p levy on high-sugar drinks and money raised is funding food education schemes for University’s students.

The University tax was introduced in the 2016/17 academic year with support from the Jamie Oliver Foundation and Brighton and Hove City Council’s Sugar Smart Team, using the 5g sugar threshold that the Government’s sugar tax will use. Results so far have shown a marked shift in purchasing patterns at the University’s campus restaurants. 

Julie Barker, the University of Brighton’s Director of Accommodation and Hospitality Services, reported that overall, sales of the 10p high sugar drinks fell from 47% to 31% of total units. 

She said: “This wasn’t a controlled experiment. The range of low and no sugar drinks on offer was increased and they were positioned prominently in the drinks cabinets. And we have now installed more free water sites on campus which are mapped on the University website.” 

Ms Barker said the motivation for the campaign came from students: “Through our research, they wanted to know more about nutrition and the impact on their health of what they consume. We provided them with information to make informed choices – we did this through changing our portfolio of drinks and highlighting sugar content as well as using ‘nudging’ techniques by product placement and the 10p ‘sugar tax’. The mix initiatives has helped to change their purchasing choices.”

The drinks market has gone through and continues to go through a revolution. There has been a significant number of new products introduced into the market and the large brands have and continue to reformulate products to reduce the sugar content

Since the announcement of the Government’s levy, she said, “the drinks market has gone through and continues to go through a revolution. There has been a significant number of new products introduced into the market and the large brands have and continue to reformulate products to reduce the sugar content.” 

Carol Williams, Principal Lecturer and public health nutritionist in the University’s School of Health Sciences, said students might arguably be more price sensitive than the general public, but the main target for Public Health England’s sugar reduction action are young people 11-18 years who will also be very conscious of price. Young people are being targeted because they consume three times more sugar than is recommended and the biggest share of this comes from sugary drinks.

“The University will be keeping our price differential as we implement the Government’s sugar tax – the price difference will be bigger because the sugar levy is also subject to VAT and these extra costs are being passed onto us by our suppliers. We will be monitoring what happens.” 

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