The NHS England sugar tax adds more fuel to the obesity crisis fire. Gail Walker from Open Door PR discusses how to manage your response.
Whatever your position on the rights and wrongs of the current assault on sugar, salt and fat, you are going to have to talk about it. It’s clear this is an issue which is not going away. Communication strategies need to be quickly realigned and re-focused to meet the ongoing challenges brought about by everyone’s favourite new sport; sugar shaming.
Whether you view the proposed sugar tax, Governmental or NHS, as nanny state gone mad or simply a good thing, a new communication approach needs to be developed which is fluid reactive and impactful. Failing to understand the need to respond will create a void. For manufacturers this will be disastrous. Silence is perceived as non-compliance and from that position it is increasingly hard to gain a credible voice. If it goes too far, then the only option might be a forced re-brand, a very expensive and entirely avoidable mistake.
So what are the options? We know big brands will be the early adopters and are worthy of a watchful eye. They have the money, influence and ability to move fast. The response so far across portfolios has been three-fold; hold fast, reformulate or reduce pack size.
Household names Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s successfully committed to reformulating hero brands Life, Frosties and Coco Pops, and in an alternative and arguably less successful move, other brands have reduced pack sizes to decrease the calories in single servings. This was met with huge derision by the press, seen as a cynical ploy to increase margin rather than aid the fight against obesity. If any brands did reduce both their pack size and their price, then the communication of it failed to materialise in a meaningful way. Flaunted by the mainstream media as a ‘swindle’ and ‘rip off’ this is not an option for the faint hearted or one without a robust press office.
The question gets even harder when you move from manufacturers to caterers, who are the new tax collectors. Even the Government hasn’t committed to such a tax, yet NHS caterers have been given the enormous task of overhauling the diets of generations of sugar eating, sugar demanding consumers without national support.
With NHS caterers forced into this position its challenges have easily tripled. But there’s a clear opportunity here for suppliers to gain easy ground. Become the first to create marketing platforms and suitable products which support the caterers. We don’t know exactly what the sugar landscape will look like in ten years but to win in this market you will certainly need to react and communicate faster than ever before.
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