Sugar tax and the budget

by Tim Mudge

The budget always creates a lot of news. It is widely debated pulled apart and thrown open to public debate/humiliation/apathy, depending on your level of interest.

The sugar tax is an issue which divides opinion. Many years ago I was at conference (it was so long ago I forget where it was) and we were debating public health, mainly the impact of smoking on the NHS. There were many speakers and they spoke passionately about the subject. All of it very worthy and heartfelt. Then one of the speakers stood up and gave a talk on what would be the next nicotine. They said that salt and sugar would have a greater impact upon the nation’s health than nicotine in 20 years’ time. There were some very surprised people in that room and many thought it was an exaggeration. They also said that this was an opportunity for those who have low sugar products that are good for your health. I wish I could remember who this person was and where they came from as I would like them to do a bit of crystal ball gazing for the next twenty years, maybe they were just lucky.

So now we have the sugar tax coming and the Government say the income raised will go towards promoting healthy activities such as sports facilities and breakfast clubs for schools. We will wait and see if that happens or whether it goes to fill holes in other parts of the economy. I don’t want to get involved in a political debate on this.

So what opportunities that that give the fresh produce industry to promote our naturally healthy products? We have three years, which will fly by, to get something in place to promote our healthy products, if that is what we want to do. To my mind it would be a wasted opportunity if we didn’t do something positive as an industry, not as individual crops and products. Margins are tight and times are hard, that is obvious for everyone to see. It makes it the right time to invest in increasing volume sales, the best time to invest in positive PR is when you are in need of extra income into the sector, not when everything is rosey in the garden. It focuses the mind and resources on improving the market for the whole sector.