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MPs' attitudes towards reformulation are shifting, and not for the better

Lucozade Sport is the London Marathon’s longest serving incumbent partner, supporting hundreds of thousands of runners to complete their marathon journey and one of the world’s most iconic races.

Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I

4 min read Partner content

While MPs continue to recognise the importance of sport and physical activity in encouraging healthier lifestyles, new polling suggests that more needs to be done to highlight the vital role of reformulation.

Promoting the uptake of sport and physical activity, increasing education on healthy lifestyles, and ensuring clearer labelling of products remain the three top policies MPs believe can encourage healthier lifestyles in the UK.

That’s according to new MP polling conducted by YouGov for Suntory Beverage and Food GB&I (SBF GB&I), published this week to coincide with the anniversary of the introduction of HFSS Location Restrictions (England) in October 2022.

YouGov survey of MPs shows “encouraging reformulation of food and drink products” has decreased in popularity as a way to encourage healthier lifestyles in the UK
YouGov survey of MPs shows “encouraging reformulation of food and drink products” has decreased in popularity as a way to encourage healthier lifestyles in the UK

Concerningly, the polling (which was run in both 2022 and 2023) shows that “encouraging reformulation of food and drink products” whilst still remaining in the top 4, has decreased in favour amongst MPs (from 41% in 2022 down to 33% in 2023). That’s despite the findings from McKinsey’s comprehensive 2014 report Overcoming Obesity, which found that reformulation is one of the most impactful levers available for UK policy makers and manufacturers alike.

SBF GB&I, proud owners of iconic British brands Lucozade and Ribena, is committed to having a positive impact on the lives of its consumers. Based on the findings of the McKinsey report and consumer research data that suggest consumers want less sugar in their diets, the brands started their reformulation journey in 2013 and have invested significant time and money innovating and reformulating ever since. As a result, none of SBF GB&I’s drinks are HFSS.

In total, the company has reduced sugar by 57% across its core drinks1 and launched zero or reduced calorie alternatives for every core brand providing choice for its consumers. Through major investment and innovation, SBF GB&I continues to introduce entirely new, lower-sugar drinks and launch new sub-brands, such as Ribena Sparkling, Lucozade Sport FitWater and Lucozade Sport Zero Sugar. In 2020, the business went even further and invested over £13m in its factory to bolster its capacity to produce lower-sugar and non-HFSS drinks at pace.

Conscious that a healthier lifestyle is not just about what we eat and drink, SBF GB&I continues to work hard to get the nation moving more. As the 15th most culturally relevant sports brand in the world2, Lucozade Sport continues to unlock potential. It is the London Marathon’s longest serving incumbent partner, supporting hundreds of thousands of runners to complete their marathon journey and one of the world’s most iconic races. In 2018, the brand reconfigured its relationship with the FA to focus on growing the women’s game through the Lionesses and supported them through recent European championship success and a World Cup Final appearance. And since 2014 has sponsored Our Parks, a grass roots movement providing free exercise classes delivered by fully qualified and registered coaches, growing from 0 to 250,000+ users.

All of SBF GB&I's drinks are non HFSS
All of SBF GB&I's drinks are non HFSS

SBF GB&I has been making progress to help its consumers lead healthier lives and will continue to do so but believes more can be done by governments. Due to its technical nature, reformulation and innovation takes significant time and money, and this is further complicated by an inconsistent policy landscape. If other companies are to follow SBF GB&I’s lead, further support from government is needed. This includes ensuring a stable policy landscape, so that manufacturers can invest in their portfolios with confidence that the goalposts are not going to change.

It's also about providing the resources to those manufacturers and businesses that want to reformulate but which, due to their size or knowledge levels, are unable to do so. The Scottish Government funds Reformulation for Health, an excellent programme that supports SMEs to reformulate and innovate, and a similar model could be adopted across the rest of the UK.

Finally, it’s about governments recognising that the fuel we put in our bodies is just part of the equation when considering healthier lifestyles. The delay of HFSS restrictions and recent publication of Get Active: a strategy for the future of sport and physical activity may suggest the UK Government’s position is shifting to a more holistic approach. What is clear is that promoting sport and activity is critical to encourage healthier lifestyles, and it's one thing that almost every MP agrees on.


1. Regular Lucozade Energy, Ribena and Orangina

2. Fan Intelligence Index, 2019

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