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Sugar tax no bitter pill, says Coca Cola

MBONGENI MGUNI
Richard Muturi, Norton Kingwill from Coca Cola.PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Coca-Cola Beverages Botswana (CCBB) plans to roll out new products, including adjusting the sizes of packaging and blends offered, as a way of adjusting to the possible introduction of a sugar tax by government.

In his inaugural State of the Nation Address recently, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the government was considering its options to reduce the consumption of sweetened products, particularly beverages.

Many commentators read the statement as a hint that government was considering a tax on sweetened products, particularly beverages, a route already taken by South Africa and numerous other countries facing public health challenges such as overweight, obesity and associated chronic ailments. “Amongst the contributing factors to the high prevalence of overweight and obesity is the increased consumption of sugar sweetened products, especially beverages.

“Government will be considering options to reduce consumption of these products,” Masisi said, adding that extensive consultations would be undertaken. This week, managing director for Coca-Cola Beverages Africa’s Southern Africa region, Norton Kingwill said the beverage maker’s approach was not to wait for government, but to take the initiative by innovating around products and packaging.  “Sugar tax is a reality and we want to be responsible in how we serve our consumers,” he told BusinessWeek at a briefing on Tuesday.

“We will be doing a lot of things to support the objectives of what that tax wants to achieve. “These include alternative products, reformulation

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of drinks, reducing the sugar content, smaller packs and others. “In this market, there’s a lot of strategy to try and achieve the same objectives that government is looking for.”

He added: “For example, you can aim for less sugar in a 100 millilitre product, but have the same taste”.

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom slapped a sugar tax on 457 products, with the amount levied depending on the sugar level in the beverage.

The British government announced last week that the new tax had raised £153.8m (P2.1 billion) since it was introduced in April, although it was unclear whether consumers were changing their consumption patterns.

South Africa’s sugar tax kicked off in April with the goal of reducing obesity prevalence by 10% by 2020.

Coca-CoBeverages Botswana (CCBB), the producer, bottler and distributor of Coca-Cola and affiliated products in Botswana, employs 212 people countrywide.

CCBB formally began operations on Tuesday, having emerged from a transaction in which it was separated from Kgalagadi Beverages Limited.



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