Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé; are among seven soft-drink makers that have agreed to limit the amount of sugar they use in beverages sold in Singapore, marking the latest campaign from a health regulator to fight diabetes by targeting sweet drinks.
The seven companies, which include four large, regional groups, would cap the sugar content of their sweetened drinks at 12 per cent by 2020, Singapore’s ministry of health said on Tuesday.
The pledge appears to be the first of its kind in Asia in which a national health regulator has received such a commitment from the largest drink producers in the market.
“We are heartened to receive the strong support from industry players on sugar reduction efforts,” the ministry said.
Singapore-based Yeo Hiap Seng and F&N Foods, as well as Malaysia Dairy Industries and Japan’s Pokka have also agreed to the sugar limit.
The companies make up 70 per cent of pre-packaged sweetened drinks in the country of about 5.6m people and could reduce Singapore’s sugar consumption by 300,000kg a year, according to the ministry.
In Asia, rising wealth has been accompanied with dramatic changes in diet, including increased sugar intake. As a result, diabetes has rapidly become a serious concern for health authorities in many countries across Asia.
The Philippines has introduced a bill that aims to increase a tax on sweetened drinks, and the south-east Asian state of Brunei this year implemented a tax on sugary beverages.
The agreement to limit sugar content in drinks sold in Singapore follows efforts by western governments to combat obesity by urging consumers to lower their sugar and salt consumption. The US government last year mandated that companies label how much added sugars are in packaged foods.
As part of a global shift towards healthier drinks, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have rolled out smaller bottles of their namesake sodas and introduced new drinks, such as kombucha fermented teas. “Guilt-free” snacks and drinks, such as diet sodas and baked crisps, now make up about 45 per cent of PepsiCo sales, according to the group.
The Singapore decision comes as PepsiCo has been “transforming our portfolio to meet changing consumer needs”, the company said.
PepsiCo added that about 80 per cent of its drinks sold in Singapore already contained 12 per cent or less of added sugars. The company last year committed to cutting sugars globally so that two-thirds of its drinks would have less than 100 calories per 12 ounce serving by 2025.
James Quincey, chief executive of Coca-Cola, has pledged to cut sugar in more than 500 of its drinks globally this year. The company says that 30 per cent of its 3,900 beverages contain either low or no sugar, and that 97 per cent of its drinks sold in Singapore, including the eponymous soda, already meet Singapore’s requirements.
In Singapore, more than 400,000 people suffer from diabetes and one in three citizens is at risk of getting the disease, according to the ministry of health.
China in recent years has seen a rapid increase in obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes. The World Health Organisation says that about 10 per cent of Chinese adults live with diabetes and about half of adults are considered pre-diabetic.
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