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Tracy West: retail commentator
12 January, 2018

Life is all about choice but increasingly choices are being taken away from us apparently for our own good.

Here I am referring to the removal of sugar, particularly in soft drinks. With implementation of the sugar levy fast approaching (April 6), many companies are clamouring to cut back on the sweet stuff in their recipes.

The latest is Irn-Bru but there's been a massive backlash. That's because despite the drink already being available in a sugar-free version, the original recipe is having half of its sugar replaced with sweeteners.

One big Irn-Bru fan set up a petition asking makers to keep the old recipe and got 35,000 signatures on it, while daytime TV host Lorraine Kelly told The Sun that AG Barr should reverse their 'crazy' recipe change, likening it to painting the Forth Road Bridge yellow. But the company has said the new formulation retains the original drink's 'unique' taste and nine out of 10 consumers would not be able to tell the difference. However, given Irn-Bru's popularity, particularly in Scotland and with ex-pats, those one-in-10 consumers who can taste the difference will soon mount up.

You have to wonder if the young marketeers at AG Barr have ever heard of Coca-Cola's 'New Coke' marketing disaster back in the 1980s when the soft drinks' giant reformulated the classic drink and faced such a backlash that they had to revert back. Actually on the sugar front, I think Coca-Coca is doing the right thing ie offering people choice. So for those who want the full-sugar hit there's red Coke, plus there's Zero Sugar and Diet Coke for people who don't want sugar. Coke did try a reduced sugar Coke remember Life? But it was not that popular. With drinks like red Coke you know what you're getting so there's nothing wrong with drinking them in moderation.

Diet and sugar-free drinks may be good sugar-wise but obviously there is the question mark over the sweeteners - and not everyone likes their taste.

Although there's a trend towards sugar-free, I just hope manufacturers and retailers don't go too far and instead remember consumers want a choice.


As the Government is urged to publish its plans for E10 by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Bioethanol, would you welcome the introduction of E10 as the right next step in cutting automotive carbon emissions?