Researchers find significant sugar rise in chocolate confectionery in the UK over 25 years

A research paper from the Queen Mary University of London has found that sugar levels in chocolate confectionery within the UK have risen significantly over the past two decades.

The analysis, which studied consumer trends for a series of over 20 branded products, found that despite a strong government-backed drive towards cutting sugar levels, product formulation had in fact changed little.

Under the study titled, ‘Cross-sectional survey of the amount of sugar and energy in chocolate confectionery sold in the UK between 1992-2017,’ found that at the start of the survey period, sugar content stood at 46.6g per 100g, while 25 years later, it had in fact risen to a figure of 54.7g per 100g.

As the research noted, in July 2015, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in the UK recommended that average free sugars (sugar) intake, across the UK population, should not exceed 5% of total energy intake. SACN’s advice was based on the need to reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries risk.

Consequently, the UK government published an action plan in 2016, which led to a much-publicised campaign from Public Health England to cut rates of sugar by 20% in chocolate products by 2020. To date, though official analysis has yet to be released, the reportedly cautious level of voluntary response from industry has meant the target is unlikely to be met.

This has led to consumer campaign groups such as Action On Sugar calling for the introduction of a sugar tax to be applied to confectionery in the same way has been achieved within the drinks sector.

However, the past year has seen several major manufacturers respond, including Mars Wrigley producing a ‘More protein’ variety of its Mars, which claims a 40% reduction in sugar, as well as a version of its Snickers bar series featuring a 30% cut in sugar.

Nestlé has entered the fray with an announcement this summer that the company would be producing a KitKat with no-added sugar, made purely from cocoa beans and pulp, as well as UK manufacturers such as Plamil, serving the free-from market, also recently releasing its own no-added sugar bars.

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