The nation’s sugar daddy?

By HM Treasury [OGL (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/)], via Wikimedia Commons

By HM Treasury [OGL (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Chancellor’s budget for 2016 has proved rather divisive since its unveiling last week. From Jeremy Corbyn’s calls for George Osborne to resign over a purported £4.4 billion black hole in the numbers to Iain Duncan’s Smith’s dramatic exit, it has split opinion among the general public, politicians and the catering industry.

One aspect of the Chancellor’s new economic plan for the country widely reported on (no doubt due to its ties celeb chef and all-round pukka geeza, Jamie Oliver) is the proposed Sugar Tax. It will mean the introduction of a tax on soft drinks by 2018 adding 24 p a litre to those with the highest sugar content.

The proposal has mostly been supported among restaurant industry types (though the soft drinks industry unsurprisingly feel rather differently with legal action rumblings now being heard). Leon founder, John Vincent, praised the move, saying the voluntary sugar tax introduced by JO and his restaurant group in September 2015 showed what could be done. The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) also welcomed the news, with MD Mark Linehan pointing out that statistics ‘like five-year-olds consuming their own body weight in sugar every year’ made it impossible not to support the tax.

The British Soft Drinks Association on the other hand feels the tax is ‘ill-considered’ and could be costly to the British public. Osborne says it will raise £520m in its first year, far less than the cost of introducing the levy which is estimated at £1 bn.

Some consider the tax further evidence of a ‘Nanny State’ run amok, while obesity campaigners are concerned measures don’t go far enough, with fruit juices, smoothies and milk-based drinks all exempt from the planned levy, despite high levels of sugar content. The huge strain that obesity-related illnesses place on the NHS mean (£13.8 bn a year) means the sugar tax has been heartily-well received within the health community.

jamieoliverOur own Peter Harden, co-founder of Harden’s Restaurant Guides, had this to say: “A tax on Coke! Who’d have thought it? Jamie Oliver et al may have been campaigning for it in recent years but even a decade ago it was off the radar.

“It has little effect on restaurants, but it does bring with it another salutory caution for the trade. Along with alcohol advice that seems increasingly party-pooping and calorie counts on menus, the medical establishment is on a mission to take away the idea that we can all guiltlessly fill our faces with whatever we like. The media agenda is just going to get tougher on all of our guilty pleasures.

“So far the quality UK restaurant trade has sailed on fairly unscathed by the increasing pressure on public health, not too affected by the smoking ban and laughing in the face of the anti-salt campaigners. For a trade whose finances are rooted in putting a mark-up of 3x on the world’s most popular drug – it begs some long-term thoughts in steering the business so that the health of its offerings is aligned with the long-term health of its customers.”

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