The UK hospitality industry put on a brave face as the government's controversial sugar tax came into force today.
A spokesman for UK Hospitality said: "Operators have been acting to mitigate against commercial impacts by switching to lower sugar products, offering alternative options and via pricing strategies but the levy's commercial impacts are hard to forecast this early on. It is equally difficult to gauge impacts in terms of reducing sugar consumption.
"What we know, from the experience of the wider hospitality trade, is that informed, voluntary measures, implemented incrementally to both change consumer behaviour and safeguard against commercial detriment, have already achieved much in successfully providing and promoting healthier eating and drinking. From the reformulation of menus and introduction of lower sugar alternatives to making water more available and reducing portion sizes, the sector has been key in nudging consumer behaviour in the right direction without the need for legislation."
Peter Ducker, chief executive of the Institute of Hospitality, observed: "With the controversial soft drinks industry levy now in force in the UK, it is estimated that hospitality operators will be paying between 10%-35% more for various types of full-sugar soft drinks. Purchasing managers are therefore incentivised to take a fresh look at their soft drinks menus and consider offering a wider range of low-sugar, reduced-sugar and healthy options. The market for non-alcoholic drinks is growing, with an estimated one in five UK adults no longer drinking alcohol. A more diverse and healthier soft drink choice for adults of all ages could give businesses a competitive advantage."
Brigid Simmonds, CEO of the British Beer and Pub Association. "The BBPA has worked hard with the government to reduce the impact of the sugar tax on our industry. Although the tax is paid by the manufacturer, there may be a cost to pubs who sell soft drinks, either alone or for instance where used to make drinks like shandy. The outcome of the levy is yet to be seen, however we must always be mindful of the impact of imposing further financial burden on small businesses such as pubs and we will continue to ask for more support to sustain them."
Public response has been mixed. Jamie Oliver, who pushed for the levy andhailed its instigation as a victory for children's health, was castigated on social media for using large amounts of sugar in some of his recipes. Oliver imposed a 10p levy on sugary drinks in his restaurants some three years ago.
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin, who has been an outspoken critic of the tax, claimed it would cost his firm some £3m a year. Wetherspoon increased the price of sweet soft drinks by 10p, while some restaurant chains, such as TGI Fridays and Pizza Hut have announced plans to phase out free refills of such drinks.