Changes in soft drinks purchased by British households associated with the UK soft drinks industry levy: controlled interrupted time series analysis

BMJ. 2021 Mar 10;372:n254. doi: 10.1136/bmj.n254.

Abstract

Objective: To determine changes in household purchases of drinks and confectionery one year after implementation of the UK soft drinks industry levy (SDIL).

Design: Controlled interrupted time series analysis.

Participants: Members of a panel of households reporting their purchasing on a weekly basis to a market research company (average weekly number of participants n=22 183), March 2014 to March 2019.

Intervention: A two tiered tax levied on manufacturers of soft drinks, announced in March 2016 and implemented in April 2018. Drinks with ≥8 g sugar/100 mL (high tier) are taxed at £0.24/L and drinks with ≥5 to <8 g sugar/100 mL (low tier) are taxed at £0.18/L. Drinks with <5 g sugar/100 mL (no levy) are not taxed.

Main outcome measures: Absolute and relative differences in the volume of, and amount of sugar in, soft drinks categories, all soft drinks combined, alcohol, and confectionery purchased per household per week one year after implementation of the SDIL compared with trends before the announcement of the SDIL.

Results: In March 2019, compared with the counterfactual estimated from pre-announcement trends, purchased volume of drinks in the high levy tier decreased by 155 mL (95% confidence interval 240.5 to 69.5 mL) per household per week, equivalent to 44.3% (95% confidence interval 59.9% to 28.7%), and sugar purchased in these drinks decreased by 18.0 g (95% confidence interval 32.3 to 3.6 g), or 45.9% (68.8% to 22.9%). Purchases of low tier drinks decreased by 177.3 mL (225.3 to 129.3 mL) per household per week, or 85.9% (95.1% to 76.7%), with a 12.5 g (15.4 to 9.5 g) reduction in sugar in these drinks, equivalent to 86.2% (94.2% to 78.1%). Despite no overall change in volume of no levy drinks purchased, there was an increase in sugar purchased of 15.3 g (12.6 to 17.9 g) per household per week, equivalent to 166.4% (94.2% to 238.5%). When all soft drinks were combined, the volume of drinks purchased did not change, but sugar decreased by 29.5 g (55.8 to 3.1 g), or 9.8% (17.9% to 1.8%). Purchases of confectionery and alcoholic drinks did not change.

Conclusions: Compared with trends before the SDIL was announced, one year after implementation, the volume of soft drinks purchased did not change. The amount of sugar in those drinks was 30 g, or 10%, lower per household per week-equivalent to one 250 mL serving of a low tier drink per person per week. The SDIL might benefit public health without harming industry.

Trial registration: ISRCTN18042742.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbonated Beverages / economics*
  • Carbonated Beverages / statistics & numerical data
  • Consumer Behavior / economics*
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food Industry / economics*
  • Health Policy / economics*
  • Health Promotion / economics
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Interrupted Time Series Analysis
  • Sugar-Sweetened Beverages / economics*
  • Sugar-Sweetened Beverages / statistics & numerical data
  • Taxes*
  • United Kingdom