JD Wetherspoon says well over half its non-alcoholic drink sales are now sugar-free choices. The pub chains’ claim is a growing trend that is backed up by CGA Peach data, and came just before yesterday’s government announcement of the sugar tax.

Wetherspoon said 59% of soft drinks, coffees and teas are sold as sugar-free—though with the proviso that some customers will add sugar to their hot drinks. The figures from its four-week trading period to 21 February show that it sold just under 1.3 million sugar-free drinks, compared to 900,000 drinks containing sugar.

CGA Peach data meanwhile shows that British consumers are increasingly concerned about sugar content when they drink and eat out. Nearly two thirds (64%) of adults would like to see more healthy drinks on offer in pubs and bars—a proportion that rises to 67% when narrowed down to customers of JD Wetherspoon. Sugar content is also the most important health factor when British adults choose meals, with more than two in five (43%) citing it as important or very important to them—just above the proportions who think the same about fat content (42%) or salt content (41%).

Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin says the figures show that customers are increasingly opting for healthier drinks options—without the need for the kind of sugar tax that has been proposed by campaigners including Jamie Oliver.

Martin said: “The figures show that taxing sugar in drinks is illogical unless you go further and tax desserts, chocolate, birthday cakes and other products that contain sugar. In addition, the views concerning the apparent unhealthy characteristics of food are uncertain and are often based on fashion, not science… legislators should tread warily before imposing extra taxes.”



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