Dialling back the sweetness: The impact of a sugar tax on brands and how they market themselves

stream_imgMomentum is building towards a sugar tax. What does this mean for Britain’s sugary brands? Earlier in March 2016, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, stated unequivocally that the idea remains on the table. He was echoing a statement made by the Prime Minister in January, and advice issued by Public Health England in October.

The NHS has already acted, announcing plans to add 20% to the cost of sugary drinks in its cafes, and many observers expect plans for a nationwide sugar tax to be announced later this month as part of the Government’s strategy to tackle childhood obesity.

CCL_1_840-740x569Political will is gathering because public opinion is shifting. Low-fat diets are being replaced with low sugar diets. We have already seen significant responses by the food and drink industry, most notably the glut of new product launches revolving around natural sweeteners and sugar alternatives such as agave syrup and stevia. Coca Cola’s Coke Life is one example of a big brand responding to consumer concerns in this area.

With this sugar tax on the horizon it may be time to accelerate this process. Brands need to evolve and adapt as quickly as the market is shifting, developing brand and marketing strategies that make it clear that they understand and respect the views and needs of the consumers they serve.

reeses-peanut-butter-cups-miniatures-sugar-free-500x500Most critically, they must recognise that this is more than a marketing challenge. By all means find ways to communicate the benefits of your sugary food – be they energy, taste or plain, old fun – but don’t kid yourself that that will insulate your sales from this tectonic shift in consumer attitudes. It will certainly not save you if and when the sugar tax does arrive.

The true challenge here is to find ways to leverage the equity held in current brands onto new product lines that are more in tune with the tastes of the consumer of 2016. It is an innovation and new product development challenge – the time to respond to it is approaching ever more rapidly and brands must plan for a future where more challenges like this are not only likely but guaranteed. Future-proofing brands and ensuring they can adapt and grow in accordance with these social and market changes is vital, and must be built into every brand’s marketing and business plans.

Article By Nikki Austen, Head of Insight and strategy, Webb deVlam.

About Nikki:

Nikki_Serious_hiA graduate of UCA with a degree in Graphic Design and Communication, Nikki has worked both client and agency side, and as an independent consultant with some of the world’s best known brands, including Apple, Coca-Cola, L’Oréal, MTV, Nestlé, Nike, and Nokia.

Nikki is passionate about helping brands to unlock their full strategic, creative, and commercial potential. At Webb deVlam London, she uses a range of methodologies and creates bespoke project programs to ensure that insights are uncovered, utilised in the creative process, and addressed in the delivery of meaningful brand experiences.

Her reputation has been forged more recently through her experience and expertise in Beauty, Grooming, and Personal Care. When Anita Roddick passed away and the business was acquired by L’Oréal, Nikki became Global Creative Director of The Body Shop. Here she delivered the brand’s most successful ethics and values-driven initiative ever, selling 7 million limited edition hand creme products and changing laws worldwide to protect children from sex trafficking. The campaign won the DBA Design Effectiveness Award in the Design for Society category, honouring the legacy of the iconic Roddick.

Nikki’s motivations are simple: lead by example, solve problems, inspire creative thinking, build great working relationships.

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