Plain packaging a red herring, says New Zealand Beverage

Friday 2 September 2016

New Zealand Beverage Council President Olly Munro says that calls by University of Auckland researchers for plain packaging on sugar-sweetened beverages is unhelpful in the context of the wider conversation on the part played by salt, sugar and fat in the development of a healthy lifestyle.

“The researchers talked to people they are calling ‘children’ (aged 13 – 24) about how plain packing, warning labels and/or pricing increases would impact their buying decisions. Interestingly, pricing (which implies an increase by taxation) came out last.

“Our concern is that the vast majority of people surveyed are not in fact children (as defined by the Advertising Standards Association ). In addition we do not think it is useful to the wider debate on obesity to focus on universally untested ‘solutions’ like plain packaging for soft drinks. This is not silver bullet they are searching for,” he says.

Munro says that the claim by the researchers that soft drinks are the biggest source of sugar in young New Zealanders' diets is also incorrect. “The hard data on that, although aging now, is the National Nutrition Survey 2008/2009 which clearly shows that sugar-sweetened soft drinks account for only 1.5% of the daily energy intake for this age group (14 years  ).”

“More recent independent sales data clearly indicates consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been declining for more than ten years, and there is a strong consumer trend towards preferences for low- or no-calorie beverages. I think that makes it pretty difficult to justify claims that soft drinks are the root or even primary cause of health problems like tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.”

Munro says that the issue is too important to be grand-standing over, and that there needs to be a cross-party approach to finding a solution that will make a real difference rather than plucking random and extreme untested solutions from thin air.

“The rise in obesity globally is a complex phenomenon with many causes - including declining levels of physical activity and too little focus on the impact of overall calorie intake,” says Munro.

“We are currently working on a number of initiatives with our members to further address the obesity issue, and look forward to sharing the detail around that in due course,” he says.

[i] The Code for Advertising to Children defines the age of a child as under 14 in line with the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 and aligns with the Broadcasting Standards Authority definition of a child.

For more information, contact:

Emma Morrison
Senior Account Director
Wright Communications Limited

Mobile:  64 21 916 647

About the NZBC

The New Zealand Beverage Council (NZBC) represents the manufacturers of New Zealand's juice, carbonated drink and bottled water brands, and their suppliers. The NZBC acts:

· as a forum to discuss issues of concern and interest to the industry
· as a self-regulator ensuring product adherence to all relevant codes and statutes
· as a provider of technical assistance to members
· as an advocate for consumer education on health and nutrition issues.

Its members represent over 95 per cent of all juice and non-alcoholic beverages sold at retail level in New Zealand.

© The New Zealand Beverage Council (Inc.), 2016.

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