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BACKGROUND: Consumption of free sugars in the UK greatly exceeds dietary recommendations. Public Health England (PHE) has set voluntary targets for industry to reduce the sales-weighted mean sugar content of key food categories contributing to sugar intake by 5% by 2018 and 20% by 2020. The aim of this study was to assess changes in the sales-weighted mean sugar content and total volume sales of sugar in selected food categories among UK companies between 2015 and 2018. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We used sales data from Euromonitor, which estimates total annual retail sales of packaged foods, for 5 categories-biscuits and cereal bars, breakfast cereals, chocolate confectionery, sugar confectionery, and yoghurts-for 4 consecutive years (2015-2018). This analysis includes 353 brands (groups of products with the same name) sold by 99 different companies. These data were linked with nutrient composition data collected online from supermarket websites over 2015-2018 by Edge by Ascential. The main outcome measures were sales volume, sales-weighted mean sugar content, and total volume of sugar sold by category and company. Our results show that between 2015 and 2018 the sales-weighted mean sugar content of all included foods fell by 5.2% (95% CI -9.4%, -1.4%), from 28.7 g/100 g (95% CI 27.2, 30.4) to 27.2 g/100 g (95% CI 25.8, 28.4). The greatest change seen was in yoghurts (-17.0% [95% CI -26.8%, -7.1%]) and breakfast cereals (-13.3% [95% CI -19.2%, -7.4%]), with only small reductions in sugar confectionery (-2.4% [95% CI -4.2%, -0.6%]) and chocolate confectionery (-1.0% [95% CI -3.1, 1.2]). Our results show that total volume of sugars sold per capita fell from 21.4 g/d (95% CI 20.3, 22.7) to 19.7 g/d (95% CI 18.8, 20.7), a reduction of 7.5% (95% CI -13.1%, -2.8%). Of the 50 companies representing the top 10 companies in each category, 24 met the 5% reduction target set by PHE for 2018. The key limitations of this study are that it does not encompass the whole food market and is limited by its use of brand-level sales data, rather than individual product sales data. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings show there has been a small reduction in total volume sales of sugar in the included categories, primarily due to reductions in the sugar content of yoghurts and breakfast cereals. Additional policy measures may be needed to accelerate progress in categories such as sugar confectionery and chocolate confectionery if the 2020 PHE voluntary sugar reduction targets are to be met.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pmed.1003647

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS Med

Publication Date

05/2021

Volume

18

Keywords

Commerce, Dietary Sugars, England, Food, Food Analysis