Belfast Telegraph

Shloer chiefs hope Northern Ireland fans are still sweet on drink after revamp to beat sugar levy

By Andrew Madden

The recipe for Shloer, one of Northern Ireland's favourite non-alcoholic tipples, has been changed to get around the so-called 'sugar tax', the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

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SHS Group in Belfast, which makes and distributes high-end fizzy fruit drink Shloer as well as the Bottlegreen range of cordials, said it had tweaked its recipe to add more "natural ingredients" and reduce its sugar content.

The levy came into force yesterday and will see manufacturers of soft drinks that contain more than 5g of sugar per 100ml paying 18p a litre to the Treasury, or 24p a litre if the sugar content is over 8g per 100ml, with the cost passed on to retailers and customers.

The Government and health campaigners hope the higher prices will put consumers off buying the most sugary drinks and lead to a significant decline in obesity.

Elaine Birchall, chief executive of SHS Group, told the Belfast Telegraph it had reformulated Shloer and Bottlegreen. The company also owns other consumer brands such as pre-mixed alcoholic drink WKD and Sunny Jim firelighters.

"As the widely debated soft drinks levy goes live this month, all Shloer and Bottlegreen products produced from April 6 onwards will be sugar levy exempt.

"In reformulating the Shloer and Bottlegreen products it was of paramount importance to reformulate our drinks with naturally sourced ingredients to maintain an equal or better taste for our consumer.

"We have been innovative in the sourcing of alternative ingredients and refining of production processes and all liquids have been tested with consumers to ensure that we have not compromised on brand loyalty fundamentals."

However, some soft drinks are not being altered to comply with the levy - resulting in higher prices for consumers.

Original Pepsi and Coca-Cola Classic are remaining intact due to customer demand, and will therefore attract the levy, with the cost of a 330ml can of the original Coca-Cola, containing around seven teaspoons of sugar, likely to rise by around 8p plus VAT.

Wetherspoon's chairman Tim Martin said prices on soft drinks in pubs would increase by about 10p as a result of the tax.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates the levy will raise £240m in 2018-19 as a result, less than half the £520m it was expected to bring in when the Government first announced the move at the 2016 budget.

Tesco has reformulated all of its own-label soft drinks to come in below the levy threshold, claiming the changes have cut more than nine billion calories from customers' diets every year, as have Asda and The Co-op.

Belfast Telegraph