Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) come in a variety of product types. Overconsumption has adverse health impacts, regardless of weight.

Definition

  • Soft drinks
  • Fruit drinks (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 or vegetable drinks

Consumption data

In Quebec

  • Recent data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec show that 4 out of 10 Quebecers are regular consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages.1
  • On a daily basis, at least one sugary drink is consumed by:
    • 19% of 15 years old and over (23,9% of men et 14,3% of women);1
    • a quarter of secondary school students;2
    • about 20% of of children aged 4 and over.3

In Canada

2008

  • Daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages peaks among 14-18 year olds:4

    • girls drank more than a third of a liter;
    • boys more than half a liter per day.
  • Soft drinks, fruit drinks and fruit juices were the main source of sugar intake in the diet of 9-18 years old.5

Based on 2015 data, an average of 88.1 liters of sugar-sweetened beverages per adult are bought per year.6

Health impacts

Obesity

  • Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with being overweight in children7 and adults.8
  • Many organizations identify sugar-sweetened beverages as an important contributor to the obesity epidemic.9-14

Type 2 diabetes

  • Several studies establish an association between regular consumption of sugary drinks and the risk of type 2 diabetes among adults.15-17

Cardiovascular diseases

  • Consuming sugary drinks increases the risk of high blood pressure.18
  • Men who drink at least two sugary drinks per day have a 23% higher risk of suffering from heart failure than those who don’t consume any.19

Dental health

  • Sugary drinks are one of the main sources of free sugars in the diet. It’s a direct cause of tooth decay, especially when consumed between meals.20
  • The acidity of the vast majority of sugary and diet drinks causes dental erosion. That phenomenon causes permanent damage, such as weakening of the enamel and hypersensitivity to cold, heat, sugar and touch.21

Fatty liver

  • Overconsumption of sugary drinks is the most common risk factor for fat accumulation in the liver among people with no traditional risk* of the disease.22

*Diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidemia et hypertension

Environmental impacts

  • Accumulation of single-use plastic containers23
    • While a fraction of them are recycled, sugary drinks clog landfills up.
    • Most pollute parks, waterways and streets.
  • Waste of water23
    •  41 L of water are needed to produce the quantity of glucose-fructose sugar and the plastic container of a half-liter sugary drink.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions during transportation of raw materials, container and content of sugar-sweetened beverages23

Industry's instensive marketing

The sugary drinks industry develops extensive marketing plans to encourage increased consumption, especially among young people.

The 4 Ps of marketing are all taken advantage of: procduct, price, placement (distribution) and promotion.

Product: something for everyone

To reach all types of consumers, the industry develops a variety of products that can appeal to each of them, through various strategies:

  • evocative name associated with values or lifestyle;
  • attractive colors and shapes conveying a symbol;
  • formats that adapt to all clienteles;
  • addition of vitamins and minerals to create the illusion of “health” or “added-value” products.

Price: a decisive element

Price is a key factor in the purchasing process, especially among young people.24,25 A low price can stimulate an impulsive buying: 65% à 80% of purchase decisions are made at points of sales, which is why the industry advocates the use of:26

  • pricing policy by beverage category;
  • recurring discount, encouraging bulk purchases;
  • discount associations with fast-food restaurants.

Placement: betting on availability

Sugary drinks are ubiquitous: 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: the more the food is visible, the more likely it is to be “chosen” by a consumer. Other means are used to facilitate their spotting:

  • 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.

Promotion: key to success

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 brand27-29. A vast number of media channels, in addition to traditional media advertising, is being used by the sugar-sweetened beverages industry to reach its target audiences.

For more information, see the full reports and summaries in our Tools section.

It is the responsibility of the decision-makers to enact laws, public policies and regulations in order to limit the consumption of sugar-sweeteened beverages. Several measures are proved to be promising.


References