Sugar Taxes Ineffective and Unnecessary

The New Zealand Beverage Council (NZBC) says calls by public health advocates over the weekend to introduce a sugar tax into New Zealand are unnecessary and ignore the mounting international evidence that sugar taxes are ineffective.

“While sugar taxes might sound reasonable in theory, the reality is they do not work in practice and have no impact on obesity rates or health outcomes,” says Council spokesperson Stephen Jones.

“This is backed-up by a major Ministry of Health funded study conducted by the NZIER in 2018, which concluded the evidence that sugar taxes improve health outcomes is weak[1].

“We have seen no long-term meaningful impact on the consumption rates of sugar-sweetened beverages in Mexico as a result of a tax introduced in 2015 and obesity rates have continued to climb. 

“And in Berkley, California, the overall calorie intake actually increased following the introduction of a soft drink tax because consumers simply switched from taxed soft drinks to untaxed juices and smoothies, which tend to contain more sugar, and also bulk bought from neighbouring cities in order to avoid the tax.

“Further, the reported findings released over the weekend fail to support the necessity of a sugar tax. The report itself found that Kiwis consumption of sugar sweetened beverages is a fraction of what it is in the United Kingdom and the United States.”[2] 

“Just five percent of the average New Zealand adult’s daily calories come from non-alcoholic beverages.

“As an industry we know the consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks In New Zealand is continuing to fall, while we are seeing huge growth in the sales of low and no-sugar soft drinks. In response to consumer demand, there has been a real effort by beverage companies to focus their efforts on launching and promoting new low and no-sugar options.

“And while there might have been some growth in sports drinks (including no-sugar variants) in recent years, these drinks make up only a tiny fraction of overall drinks sales and are offset by the incredible growth in the sale of low and no-sugar drinks like kombucha, as well as reformulation of existing drinks (including juices) to reduce sugar content.

“We know we have a role to play to help encourage healthy nutritional habits, and the evidence shows a multi-pronged evidence-based approach is what is required to be most effective. 

“Initiatives that have been shown to have positive impacts on obesity rates include reformulation of recipes to reduce sugar content, smaller portion sizes and improved nutritional education. 

“These are initiatives we support and are committed to working with government, regulators and health officials to pursue.”



[1] In their research, the NZIER analysed 47 peer-reviewed studies and working papers relating to sugar taxes and did not find a single study, based on actual experience with sugar taxes, that identified any impact on health outcomes.

[2] In New Zealand, the report found the average daily intake of sugary drinks was 175mL per person per day, compared to 275ml per person in the UK and 460ml per person in the USA.