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In this new series we look at stunning statistics from the world of sustainability. What do they mean? What is the impact for investors? Today: Coca-Cola is ditching its fully sugared Sprite range in the Dutch market.
We all like to count the calories - so how about removing 3.75 billion of them from a drinks portfolio? It’s a welcome part of a wider trend, say Robeco’s trends investing and engagement heads.
Coca-Cola in March 2017 decided to stop selling the fully sugared Sprite brand in the Netherlands amid the campaign to reduce sugar content of soft drinks. Low and no-sugar Sprite will remain on sale.
The notion that ‘sugar is the new tobacco’ due to its adverse effects on health has promoted the move, driven partly by the health-conscious reputation of a Dutch public that is increasingly ditching unhealthy habits.
And it has produced numbers as large as the waistlines that excessive sugar consumption can cause. Removing the full sugar Sprite from Coca-Cola’s Dutch portfolio of brands removes 3.75 billion calories from the shelves at a stroke – equivalent to more than 4,000 years’ worth of the normal daily calorie intake of the average person.
If the withdrawal of traditional Sprite is seen as a success in the Netherlands, it could also be dropped in 100 other countries, Coca-Cola’s country manager Richard Schlasberg told the Financieele Dagblad newspaper.
Coca-Cola markets 18 brands of its soft drinks in the Netherlands, and one-third of the income at its bottling plant at Dongen in the south of the country is now derived from zero or low calorie drinks.
The wider trend is that consumption of soft drinks by the average Dutch person fell to 91.5 liters per head in 2015 from 102.6 liters each in 2011 – still an average of a quarter-of-a-liter per day. Coca-Cola’s latest move is part of a plan to cut the overall calorific content by 15% across the range.
Robeco in February published a white paper, entitled ‘What’s bad: sugar or fat’ examining the challenges facing the food and drinks industry. “Our increased sugar consumption has led to an obesity epidemic, which is increasing the prevalence of diabetes, heart attacks and choked arteries,” says Henk Grootveld, Head of Trends Investing at Robeco.
“We expect the food and beverages industry to be faced with declines in the volume of demand for their sugary products as consumers start looking for healthier alternatives.”
And talking to the industry is one of the engagement themes for Robeco’s Active Ownership team for 2017. “For this new theme we are focusing on identifying the measurable impact of sugar on people’s health,” says Carola van Lamoen, Head of Active Ownership.
“In our dialogue with food and beverage companies we will focus on product reformulation to reduce use of sugar and develop a healthier product range and how they prioritize their marketing budget towards the low-sugar transition.”