Retailers have called on the government and soft drinks manufacturers to do more to educate the public about the forthcoming sugar levy, with many warning of an information desert around pricing and merchandising in store.
The tax, which targets drinks containing more than 5g per 100ml, will become law on 6 April. However, retailers are reporting little or no information or guidance for consumers, with many fearing they will bear the brunt of their anger when the price of their favourite full-sugar drinks soar.
Raaj Chandarana of Tara’s News, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said: “The government doesn’t seem to be doing anything at all. We don’t want to get the blame, but that’s what always happens.
“Manufacturers also need to pull their fingers out and educate the shopper.”
Confusion has also been heightened by some manufacturers reformulating recipes to reduce sugar while others have shrunk packaging to keep the price the same in preparation for the tax.
Some retailers are even starting to act themselves. Tywardreath Village Shop, in Cornwall, has begun re-organising its soft drinks along sugar content lines, rather than brands: the more sugar, the higher up they are positioned on shelf.
Josh Taylor co-owner of the store said: “The shelves are more disjointed now we’ve arranged by sugar content, and we need to find a middle ground. When the tax comes in, in the short term we’ll go with the sugary, smaller sizes. In the long run, I’d like to see less sugar in drinks.”
An HMRC spokesman said: “Manufacturers, retailers, and the public will see a range of helpful explainers about how to comply with the Soft Drinks industry levy in the coming weeks and months.”
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola European Partners said: "Between now and the introduction of the soft drinks tax, we will continue to focus on the work we began long before the tax was announced. This includes the introduction of innovative new products, building distribution for our smaller packs and encouraging consumers to choose our lower and no-sugar drinks.
"This has been achieved through initiatives like the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar sampling campaign that took place throughout last summer, distributing over 15 million samples to consumers across Great Britain to drive trial and awareness."
Britvic said they have created a leaflet recommending retailers pass on price rises, review their ranges and offer choice, adding health is the biggest trend.