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Kids of all ages targeted next in soft drink shift
December, 2008

While a new child soft drink consumption study in the UK suggests some industry health drive success, nutritionists predict further scrutiny lies ahead for higher sugar, carbonated products, which are still popular with all age groups.

According to the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), the study, which was conducted by independent analyst TNS, sought to ascertain the manner in which UK children between 0 and 16 years of age consume drinks.

Despite growing fears over obesity and other health issues, particularly in children, the report concludes that in 2007, juice-based drinks, bottled water and milk were twice as likely to be chosen over higher sugar drinks as in 1993.

Adult pressure

However, while the industry argues that children's drinking habits appear to be improving, one nutritionist suggests pressure will also grow on adults to ensure moderation in both their alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage consumption.

Outside of teas and coffees, carbonated beverages, diluted squash, pure juice, tap water and alcohol all represented between seven and eight per cent shares of total UK beverage consumption, according to a study of British drinking habits.

Registered nutritionist Sian Porter told that the child study findings were 'encouraging' and reflected a drive across Europe to modify vending machine content at schools to encourage healthier product consumption.

While Porter suggested that water and milk consumption should be part of further focuses in promoting more 'tooth friendly' and 'healthier' drink choices for children, consumers of all ages were likely to be targeted by wider health drives that could affect beverages..

"Europe-wide, organisations like [Britain's] Food Standard's Agency have promoted big campaigns on issues like salt reduction," she stated. "Next up are initiatives expected to cut down the levels of fat and energy contributed by drinks and foods."

Porter suggested that pressure may the be put on manufacturers to use portion control and providing smaller packs as a means of working to cut down sugar and fat consumption in foods and drinks. She added that sugary and carbonated beverages were an example of products likely to be singled out in such initiatives.

Five a day

However, beyond targeting specific beverage segments, for adults and children alike, Porter said that the age-old message of enjoying drinks in moderation and remaining hydrated were the best ways of balancing a diet.

In looking at the soft drink industry though, she added messages like consuming five fruits or vegetables a day were having a large impact on how UK consumers were enjoying their drinks.

"While you can't just have five glasses of juice a day to meet this quota, the message is clearly getting through to people," she stated.

Study findings

Some of TNS' main findings from the report included that when consuming products by themselves, children most often opted to drink squash as a first choice.

In the 11 to 16 year old age group, the study said that respondents increasingly opted to drink seemingly more adult orientated products like carbonated beverages. About 21 per cent of respondents in the group were found to choose carbonated beverages as opposed to 13 per cent of six to ten years olds.

When drinking in front of their parents, the research suggested a slight variation in consumption patterns for children though.

"When consuming soft drinks with their parents, the research showed that children drink a similar range of drinks," the report stated. "The most noticeable difference when the children are with adults is that, between the ages of 6 to16 years old, tea is three or four times more likely to be consumed."


According to TNS, the findings were based on data from two of its own sources, the National Drinks Survey and its Worldpanel Usage service.

"Both of these studies are cross-sectional," claimed the analyst. "The data is captured either through completion of a diary by the child (in the case of Worldpanel Usage), or through a face-to-face interview (in the case of the National Drinks Survey)."

The National Drinks Survey recorded trends in drink 'units' consumption for 11,520 randomly selected individuals, who were no more than 15 years old, over a ten-year period.

Worldpanel Usage took data from 11,000 individuals, who were asked to complete a diary of their drink consumption for two weeks, twice a year, over a period of four years.

Source: foodanddrinkeurope

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