Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Desnoes & Geddes to reduce sugar content in Malta

Published:Friday | March 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Desnoes & Geddes (D&G) said it intends to reduce the sugar content in its non-alcoholic beverage Malta in a bid to give consumers a healthier choice rather than bowing to government pressure.

A timeline for the release of the less sugary product remains undisclosed as research on a new product formulation continues, D&G said in response to Financial Gleaner queries. Malta is a malt non-alcoholic beverage popular, especially, among teenagers.

"We are aiming to reduce the sugar content by 10-15 per cent," said D&G in emailed responses. "The research has commenced and will take some time, as we want to ensure that whatever we do it is sustainable," said D&G, brewers of Red Stripe beer.

The cost and savings associated with the venture remained undisclosed, but D&G has emphasised the health benefits to the island. "It's about offering consumers healthier choices and not about cost savings", the company said.

The move, however, comes amid government pressure on manufacturers to cut back on sugar content in their products to reduce the incidence of obesity which can lead to diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, especially in children.

The Government has also urged manufacturers to voluntarily reduce sugar content in their products or face the imposition of a tax on drinks above a still-unspecified threshold.

"This is not a new initiative for us. It is an extension of our 10-year-long 'Responsible Drinking' campaign to ensure our consumers engage in healthy lifestyle habits and intelligent consumption of all our brands," said D&G, when asked whether government ministers' pro-nouncements impacted its decision.

Asked about the timeline for the sugar reduction in Malta, D&G again made reference to its own campaigns rather than the encouragement of government and non-governmental entities urging Jamaicans to cut back on sugary drinks.

"This forms part of a broader initiative to help fight the increase of non-communicable diseases that are on the rise in Jamaica. It is an extension of our 'Drink Right' campaign, not just on irresponsible alcohol consumption, but also the excessive intake of sugar. We are engaging in efforts to educate the consumer and working to diversify product offerings and offer more choices for them," D&G said.

Other products in the Malta line will also go through a reduction in sugar content, including Malta Light. D&G said that its aim is to reduce the sugar content without affecting taste in all malt beverages.

The Financial Gleaner asked why its malt beverage needed sugar at all within the context that its beers and some of its stouts do not contain noticeable levels of sugar.

"We are currently in the embryonic stages of development, but the initiative is an important opportunity for us to help people reduce the calories and the sugar they consume from our beverages and in so doing, offer even more choices," responded D&G.

Jamaicans reportedly consume more than two billion eight-ounce servings of sugary drinks per year. This, in part, reflects the legacy of a nation whose economy was built on sugar. The World Health Organization has asked member states to develop guidelines to reduce the sugar content in food and non-alcoholic beverages. Part of those guidelines included recommendations for countries like Jamaica to consider the implementation of taxes. Last week, Lasco Manufacturers announced that it has reduced the sugar content in its core product line.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com