Concerns about the health burden of obesity have prompted governments across the world to introduce sugar taxes. In March 2016, the UK Government announced a national Soft Drinks Industry Levy which was enacted in April 2018. Alex Dickson, Markus Gehrsitz, and Jonathan Kemp assess the effects of the levy by analysing data on the universe of soft drink sales in UK grocery and convenience stores. They find that product reformulation was the key driver behind large levy-induced calorie reductions.
When the National Food Strategy was unveiled on 15 July 2021, one recommendation in the report drew the attention of policymakers and general public alike: Henry Dimbleby, the prominent business man and restaurateur who was commissioned with drafting the government-commissioned report, advocated the introduction of a £3 tax per kilo of sugar in processed foods. The report dubbed this a ‘reformulation tax’ and pointed to the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) – which has been in place since 2018 – as a model that both induced manufacturers to reduce the sugar levels in their products and raised tax revenue that could, in turn, be used to subsidise fruit and vegetables.