Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) come in a variety of product types and,when regularly consumed consequently, result in harmful effects on health.

Category of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

  • Soft drinks
  • Fruit drinks such as punches and cocktails (excluding 100% pure fruit juices)
  • Slushy (flavoured frozen drinks)
  • Sports drinks (ex.: Gatorade, Powerade, etc.)
  • Energy drinks (ex.: Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar, Guru, etc.)
  • Vitamin/enriched waters
  • Ready-made cold teas and coffees
  • Flavoured milk

Data Sugar-Sweetened Beverages' consumption

In Quebec

Recent data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec show that 4 out of 10 Quebecers and 63% of youths aged 15 to 17 are regular consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages.

  • 19% of youths aged 15 and older drink one sugar-sweetened beverage at least once a day.1
  • 23.9% of men and 14.3% of women aged 15 years and older consume a sugar-sweetened beverage at least once a day.2
  • Among the 15-24 year olds, 23.3% consume a sugar-sweetened beverage at least once a day.3
  • 20% of Quebec 4-year-old age group consume sugar-sweetened beverages daily.4
  • One-quarter of high school students consume one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day.5
  • 43% of high school students have already consumed energy drinks.6

In Canada

  • The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increases with age. It reaches a peak within the 14-18 age group: boys drink more than half a liter per day and girls, more than a third of a liter.7
  • Soft drinks, fruit drinks and fruit juices contribute to the main source of sugar intake in the diet of 9-18 years old.8
  • Between 1971 and 2001, consumption of soft drinks doubled,9 and gradually declined by 2009, which can be explained by by a shift in consumption to other types of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, such as energy drinks, vitamin waters or sports drinks.10
  • According to the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk, Canada ranks 10th for the highest volume of sugar-sweetened beverages globally. On average, 88.1 liters of sugar-sweetened beverages per adult are sold per year.11

Globally

  • According to data from the Euromonitor Passport International Database, North America has the highest volume of sugar-sweetened beverages’ consumption in the world, closely followed by Latin America.12

Health impacts

Obesity

Many organizations identify sugar-sweetened beverages as an important contributor to the obesity epidemic:13,14,15,16,17,18

  • among adults, consumption of one or many sugar-sweetened beverages every day increases the probability of becoming obese by 27%;19
  • among children, consumption of one soft drink per day increases the risk of becoming obese by 60%;20
  • consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is the only dietary practice constantly associated with being overweight in children;21
  • empty calories from sugar-sweetened beverages do not contribute to feeling nutritionally gratified and only add to the daily calorie intake. In general, dietary intake is not reduce in order to compensante for the extra calories contained in sugar-sweetened beverages.22

Type 2 diabetes

  • Important studies have established an association between regular consumption of soft drinks and the risk of type 2 diabetes among adults.23,24,25,26
  • Among women, high consumption of sugary drinks is associated with greater weight gain and increased risks of developing type 2 diabetes.27
  • A meta-analysis recognizes the association between the consumption of sugary drinks and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.28

Cardiovascular diseases

Consuming sugary drinks significantly increases the risk of high blood pressure29 and is also associated with heart problems. Compared to those who do not consume any , men who drink at least two sugary drinks per day have a 23% higher risk of suffering from heart failure.30

Dental health

Cavities

  • sugary drinks are an important source of free sugars in the diet, a direct cause of tooth decay, especially when consumed between meals.31
  • High consumption of soft drinks among young children is an indicator of the risk of developing bad teeth in the primary dentition.32

Tooth decay

The acidity of the vast majority of sugary and diet drinks causes dental erosion, an irreversible phenomenon that causes permanent damage, such as weakening of the enamel and hypersensitivity to cold, heat, sugar and touch.33

Cancer

  • High consumption of sugary drinks increases the risk of symptomatic prostate cancer by about 40%.34
  • Survivors of colon cancer who had surgery and consume a high amount of sugary drinks increase their risk of recurrence.35

Sugar-sweetened beverages are easy to find, sold at low prices and intensively promoted. The sugary drinks industry uses extensive marketing plans to encourage increased consumption, especially among young people. Several public health measures must and can be adopted to limit their attractiveness and reduce their consumption.

The 4 Ps of marketing = product, price, placement (distribution) and promotion 

Product: something for everyone

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Water, sugar or substitutes, and, at times, natural or synthetic caffeine are essentially what goes into making sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
In order to conquer new markets, the industry bets on a so much broader variety of products that the supply of SSBs today is enormous.

By targeting each sliver of the market and broadening product lines, companies seek to stand out from the field. There is a SSB for each type of consumer.

To learn more, see the full report on the product.

Price: a decisive element

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Since the price is a key factor in the purchasing process, strategies used by the soft drinks industry ensure accessibility of its products and generate purchase:

  • for young people, price constitutes the second most important determinant (after food preferences) of food consumption;36,37,38
  • 65% à 80% of purchase decisions are made on sales places.39 A low price may well stimulate impulse buying;
  • a 10% increase in the price of soft drinks could reduce consumption by 8 to 10%.40

Industry strategies:

  • pricing policy by beverage category;
  • ubiquitous discount;
  • bulk purchasing encouraged;
  • discount associations with fast food.

To learn more, see the full report on pricing.

Placement: betting on availability

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Sugary drinks are ubiquitous in grocery stores, convenience stores, vending machines, gas stations, restaurants, theaters, arenas, sports centers, schools, universities, hospitals, pharmacies, railway stations, parks, etc. The environment significantly influences our dietary decisions and the more the food is visible, the more likely it is to be “chosen”:

  • wide distribution in many sales points;
  • strategic positioning: rows devoted to sugary drinks, aisle ends, refrigerator near the cash, etc.;
  • advertisements at points of sale: posters, flyers put on the shelves, stickers on shop windows, displays, promotional material, etc.

To learn more, see the full report on placement.

Promotion: key to success

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Promotional activities of the large food-processing industry influence young people, specifically targeted by advertisers, who see them as consumers with strong purchasing power and the potential to be loyal to a brand:41,42,43

  • knowledge and attitude toward junk food;
  • preferences and eating behaviors;
  • the World Health Organization has identified the intensive marketing of high energy and low nutritional value food as a contributing factor in the obesity epidemic.44

Different media are used by the soft drinks industry to its target audiences:

  • advertising in traditional media;
  • internet (websites, social networks, e-mails);
  • mobile telephony;
  • promotional videogames (“advergames”) ;
  • cross-promotion;
  • contest;
  • product placement in TV shows, movies and video games;
  • sponsorships and philanthropic activities.

To learn more, see the full report on promotion.


References