MONDAY 22 FEB 2016 12:11 PM


The UK government recommend that an average adult should consume no more than 30 grams of added sugar per day – the equivalent of seven sugar cubes. It has been cited as a leading cause of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as a contributor towards oral problems such as tooth decay.

Yet, despite increased warnings about the negative impact sugar can have on a person’s wellbeing, it is widely believed that the UK’s sugar consumption continues to grow. Recent revelations around the sugar content at some of the UK’s best-known food and beverage chains will do nothing to quash these fears.

Research carried out by British campaign group Action On Sugar has shown that chains designed to sell takeaway hot drinks are flaunting sugar guidelines by a considerable margin. International coffee conglomerate Starbucks has been cited as a main culprit, with its worst offending drink – the ‘venti’ size Hot Mulled Fruit Grape with Chai, Orange and Cinnamon – containing the equivalent of 25 teaspoons of sugar.

For Starbucks, this revelation is not the first public relations hurdle the brand has faced in the past few years. In 2013 the firm was widely berated across the UK for failing to pay any tax; Starbucks responded by contributing over £8m at the end of 2015, following a rise in company profits.

Costa Coffee, KFC and McDonalds are also identified as companies who sell hot drinks that exceed the daily ‘safe’ sugar limit. For Starbucks, the implementation of a quick, widespread and transparent PR strategy may convince investors – as well as customers – that its product sugar content is under consideration.

Considering the increased interest in perceived ‘healthier’ foods, offering viable alternatives to sugary drinks may be easier than first imagined - despite fears around price point, UK consumers are increasingly buying into the flourishing health food market. Indeed, 2015 saw shoppers spend an extra £1.4mn on organic produce per week.

Now, UK-based stores selling ‘fast’ foods such as Pret A Manger, EAT and even supermarkets, have begun providing low sugar, healthier alternatives to traditional products. This can include the replacement of high-sugar fruit drinks such as smoothies with less sugary vegetables, displaying sugar content more clearly on packaging and offering a range of sugar-free foods to offset a potentially high-sugar drinks choice.

Some may argue that customers can choose products with a high sugar content of their own will. But while Starbucks continues to operate in an international market, it has a corporate duty to mitigate any risk its products pose while attempting to remain within set guidelines.