Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The sugar tax and the infantilisation of coffee

"Osborne’s new sugar tax is a tax on the poor" announces an article in the Spectator - a magazine not hitherto noted for its concern for the poor.

In the short term it may operate like that, but the long-term effect of the tax is likely to be that manufacturers reformulate their products to avoid having to charge the tax.

Good news for the poor, though not for the school sports schemes that will benefit from the money it raises.

Children like sweet things and there are good evolutionary reasons why this should be so. Sweet things tend to be safe to eat. If children loved bitter green things the race would never have survived.

But in the last few years something terrible has happened to coffee. Queue in one of the chains today and the odds are you will find yourself queuing behind an adult buying a drink that looks like an ice cream sundae. It may well contain a similar amount of sugar.

We are, of course, free to eat as much sugar as we like, but there is a political dimension to this remaking of public taste.

Maybe it is the coffee shops that should be reformulating their products to avoid a sugar tax?


asquith said...

Surely the concern is that people with sweet tooths, and I'm definitely one of that ilk, will turn to artificial sweeteners that are much nastier than sugar. I use honey as much as I can but it simply doesn't fit into certain recipes, for which I use sugar.

We don't want to end up with a situation like America, where massively over-subsidised farmers are growing corn that's being used for "bio" fuels and as a sweetener that has health effects beyond sugar's wildest dreams.

I think little can be done, but they need to think that if people turn to junk food it's because they need to work all the hours and scrat around to make a living, and haven't got time to cook, and this will only get worse with all the "reforms".

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't see why I, who am not obese, and whose parents brought me up to eat and drink properly, should have to either pay more for my Coca-Cola, or have it reformulated to something that may not be as nice, because others don't have the self-control to either stop drinking it themselves, or stop their children drinking it to excess.

Gawain said...

Sweetened soft drinks account for 3% of the nation's sugar consumption. When you take into account price-inelasticity, trading-down within the category and substitution of other sweetened goods/drinks, the net impact on the nation's health will be so close to zero as to be un-measurable.

No-sugar versions of drinks are already available for those who want them.

And, worst of all, it will hit tonic water. This is a Tonic Tax!"

But you are right about these "coffees". Essentially they are liquid cake for girls. They are not coffee.

Phil Beesley said...

The sugar tax will shortly be forgotten and it will have little impact on internal Conservative Party politics. It's as futile as the Dangerous Dogs Act but with fewer side effects.

The really daft measures -- 100% "academy" schools and random mayors/power devolution -- will not be well regarded in ten years.