10 April 18 The Straits Times by LINETTE LAI
Sweet drinks are falling out of favour among health-conscious Singaporeans, forcing beverage firms to reformulate old favourites to try and retain their appeal.
These range from low-sugar variations to zero-sugar editions sweetened entirely by artificial sweeteners.
Industry experts say soft drink sales have slumped, especially since the Health Ministry declared war on diabetes in 2016.
"We do not expect soft drink sales to pick up," said Mr Nathanael Lim, a research analyst at Euromonitor International.
The market research firm found that over the past seven years, sweet drinks - including carbonated beverages, fruit juices and "Asian drinks" such as chrysanthemum tea - made up an increasingly smaller part of the average Singaporean's daily sugar intake.
Mr Lim said that in response, soft drink makers were moving to mitigate the sales decline by offering healthier options.
A spokesman for supermarket chain FairPrice confirmed the trend after comparing drink sales over a seven-month period starting in August 2016 with those from the same period a year later.
Beverage firms trying to find new sweet spot
"Sales of less-sugary drinks grew by over 5 per cent, whereas sales for sugary drinks declined by about 10 per cent," the spokesman said.
Sweet drinks have come under the spotlight in recent years as the Government strives to tackle the growing problem of diabetes.
Sales of less-sugary drinks grew by over 5 per cent, whereas sales for sugary drinks declined by about 10 per cent.
A FAIRPRICE SPOKESMAN, confirming the trend after comparing drink sales over a seven-month period starting in August 2016 with those from the same period a year later.
Next month, a more stringent policy kicks in to ensure that only healthier drinks are sold on government premises such as schools, parks and sports facilities.
According to the Health Promotion Board, more than 400 sweet drinks currently have the Healthier Choice Symbol, representing nearly 40 per cent of all sugar-sweetened beverages.
Mr Tony Del Rosario, general manager of Coca-Cola Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, said: "Eating and drinking less sugar is an increasingly important issue for many people in Singapore.
"That's why we are rethinking many of our recipes to reduce sugar, and are innovating to launch new lower-or no-sugar drinks," he added.
Earlier this year, the firm unveiled a new Coca-Cola Stevia drink which is sweetened with extracts from the stevia plant. While regular Coca-Cola has 10.6g of sugar per 100ml, this new edition has 6.6g.
Beverage company F&N has also launched sugar-free versions of its popular 100Plus, Sarsi and Outrageous Orange drinks, all of which contain artificial sweeteners instead of actual sugar.
Whether this is enough to convince consumers remains to be seen.
"For health reasons, I have avoided soft drinks for a very long time," said 58-year-old Soh Eng Phang, adding that she dislikes the taste of artificial sweeteners as well. "There is too much sugar in them."
Dr Lau Kong Cheen, senior lecturer from the Singapore University of Social Sciences' business school, said: "I think that society in general has been conditioned (to believe) that soft drinks are associated with unhealthy beverages and diabetes.
"Therefore, despite the efforts by beverage companies to offer less-sweet options and acquiring the Healthier Choice Symbol, it will be rather difficult to reverse the mindset."