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The Grocer recently held a debate on sugar tax and advertising in Birmingham. Ian Twinn our director of public affairs was putting the case for advertisers and how working closely with the government is the solution.
The debate was refereed by business broadcaster Steph McGovern, Gavin Partington of British Soft Drinks, Tam Fry of the Child Growth Foundation and committed campaigner on obesity with Burton Biscuit’s Liam Trow and chef Mark Sargeant.
Calls for sugar tax on all foods and drinks plus ad bans rang out from Obesity Campaigner Tam Fry in the Exhibition Hall at the NEC. The audience were polite but restless in the face of the threat.
Each of us in the debate brought our own perspective to a genuinely difficult issue…how do we as a society reverse the growth in our waist lines including mine?
Chef Mark Sargeant has just completed a crash diet and as a father of youngsters was more inclined to strong discipline over children’s access to food. Not always a comfortable message but it reinforced the fact that it is parents who are the biggest influence on what and how much their children eat.
Liam Trow of Burton’s brought his expertise in how and to what extent companies can reformulate their products. Clearly there are both great opportunities and also limitations. After all for many of us consumers the taste and feel of the product is absolutely key to our enjoyment and ultimate willingness to spend our money.
Gavin Partington representing soft drinks makers set out just why the Sugar Tax was at the same time unwelcome, unworkable and unfair to many consumers on tight incomes. The budget imposition cuts across the willingness of business to get behind the drive to tackle obesity and in many ways undermines industry commitment.
Last in the line-up Ian emphasised advertisers serious commitment to responsible advertising which includes very strict rules of what can be advertised, how the message is formed and where the ad can appear. More importantly Ian made a closing plea that "we should all fight the addiction to the belief that there are easy, simple answers to fight obesity. We need a collective will to give up the attacking, hectoring approach to consumers’ behaviour and advertisers’ products and plan out a medium to long term campaign where we each contribute to lifestyle and diet changes in our country."
Together we can succeed if we reinforce consistent, believable messages, matched by reformulation, serving size, marketing practices and a return to winning school generations over to cooking skills and exercise.
A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn
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