Ireland near the top of energy drinks consumption in Europe

Sugar content decreased but levels of energy drink sales increases

Leitrim Observer Reporter

Reporter:

Leitrim Observer Reporter

Ireland near the top of energy drinks consumption in Europe

Do you know how much sugar is in your drink?

Do you know how much sugar is in your energy drink?

A new survey by safefood has revealed that energy drinks manufacturers have reduced sugar content in energy drinks in response to the Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax, but that there has been an increase in the proportion of drinks being
sold in bigger serving sizes.

The survey found that the average sugar content per serving of energy drinks has fallen by approximately two level teaspoons of sugar (from 31g in 2015 to 23g in 2019). Of the three leading energy drink brands who have a combined market share
of 80%, there was a reduction in the sugar content of the market leader but no reduction in the sugar content of the other two. The survey revealed that before the introduction of the sugar tax, 74% of energy drinks in the Irish market would have been eligible for taxation (i.e. containing at least 5g of sugar per 100ml). The 2019 survey data shows that only 41% are
now eligible for taxation.

The snapshot survey by safefood identified an increase in the number of energy drink products for sale (from 39 to 42) with a large increase in drinks sold in 500ml servings (8 in 2015 v 16 in 2019) and no change in the number of drinks sold in 250ml servings.

Commenting on the report, Minister for Health Simon Harris, TD said, “I welcome the progress in reformulation by manufacturers since the introduction of the Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax and it is encouraging to see a significant reduction in sugar content in many products. However, it is disappointing that some of these manufacturers have not responded
appropriately. Many of these products are still high in sugar and I strongly urge retailers and manufacturers to consider further measures to reduce the sugar content of their products. I am also very concerned at the trend in increasing container sizes. I call on children, young people and their parents to be aware that these drinks are still unsuitable for consumption by them.”

The latest market research² shows that between 2015 and 2018, there was a 3.4% increase in the volume of energy drinks sold in off-trade (i.e. supermarkets, convenience stores and discounters) in Ireland and this now totals 26.7m litres. This is the equivalent of every man, woman and child drinking 5.5 litres of energy drinks every year and puts Ireland near the very top of energy drink consumption relative to other countries in the EU.

Dr Marian O’Reilly, Chief Specialist in Nutrition, safefood continued; “Regular energy drinks are basically sugary drinks with added caffeine and we know that sugary drinks are linked with poor dental health and excess weight. It’s a concern that they are cheap, readily available, in large containers and are marketed in a way that is appealing to young people. It is encouraging to see the fall in the average sugar content of these products. However, this is in contrast to caffeine contents appearing to have increased, with one serving of an energy drink contributing more caffeine than a standard espresso. These drinks are not suitable for children and we would encourage those aged over 16 to consider energy drinks as an occasional drink due to the often-high sugar and caffeine content.”

The report “A survey of energy drinks on the island of Ireland – 2019” is available to download from safefood website (www.safefood.eu) along with a poster for schools.