The impact of healthy eating trends coupled with the upcoming tax on sugary drinks next year, is prompting businesses to consider how they can reduce the sugar content in their food and drink.

Speaking at last week’s MCA Marketing Conference, Kelly Healing, senior manager – leisure, Coca-Cola European Partners, said that ‘consciously eating’ was the biggest consumer trend it had identified in its research.

While the company has an opportunity to promote the soft drinks occasion, due to the increasing number of consumers who do not drink alcohol, she said “sugar was the one element that everyone was focused on”.

“In 2004, consumers bought three regular drinks for every one low/no-sugar drink – in 2014 that was one for one,” said Healing.

In light of this trend, and in preparation for the government’s increase in tax on sugary soft drinks, to be implemented from April next year, Coca-Cola European Partners is to focus all of its marketing on its light Cola brands, said Healing. The company will also be looking at other aspects such as pack size.

“We need to offer choice,” she said, “and ensure there are low and no sugar alternatives available so people don’t have to pay tax.” Healing said Coca-Cola had reformulated all of its drinks, with the exception of its classic Coke, to ensure they were below the sugar tax levels.

Drinks with more than five grams of sugar per 100ml will see an extra 18p of tax levied per litre, while those with eight grams or more of sugar per 100ml will have an extra tax of 24p per litre.

Looking to the future Healing predicted that there would be a focus on “calorific coffees”, that people often consume on a daily basis without realising how much sugar can be in them.

Marc Frankl, food and beverage director at event caterer Amadeus Food said the company was working to reduce the raw sugar its uses in the food it makes, by, for example, using dried fruit, sugar alternatives and natural sweeteners in desserts, such as honey.

Amadeus, which has a target to reduce sugar content by 50% by 2020, added that it had stopped selling classic Coca-Cola as a ‘frontline’ drink, and had instead switched to Coke Zero and Diet Coke.

It estimates that as a result of its effort to reduce sugar, twenty million calories worth of sugar will have been removed from the products it offers, said Frankl.