The Singapore health regulator has managed to get seven soft-drink companies, including global giants Cocal-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle, to commit to cutting the sugar content in their drinks to 12% by 2020. The island-nation has a tough battle to fight against diabetes—with diabetics making up over 11% of its population, it is the second-worst affected nation among developed countries. The seven soft-drink makers account for 70% of the country’s pre-packaged sweetened drinks, and capping sugar content is expected to bring down consumption by citizens by almost 300,000 kg a year. Singapore’s effort comes against a backdrop of rising obesity in Asian nations that correlates strongly with rising prosperity. While Western nations have mandated that soft-drink makers must print added sugar content on the packaging, Asian nations like the Philippines and Brunei have chosen the “tax sugar” route to push down consumption of sweetened drinks.
On the other hand, processed food/sweetened drinks companies are themselves starting to respond to growing consumer awareness about the health-effects of excessive sugar and salt consumption. While PepsiCo had committed last year to cut sugar in two-thirds of its drinks by 2025 so that they would have less than 100 calories per 12 ounce offering, Coca-Cola says nearly a third of its 3,900 beverages worldwide have low or no added sugar. There has also been a global shift towards “guilt-free” snacks and drinks. In India, both, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have introduced variants of popular soft-drink brands that contain sugar substitutes. At the same time, PepsiCo, as per its own product information, breaches Singapore’s 12% cap for just two of its soft-drinks in the Indian market. There are nearly 70 million diabetics in the country while a further 80 million exhibit pre-diabetes conditions. Thus, India would do well to move on checking sugar consumption, too.