More buy healthier beverages as mandatory Nutri-Grade mark kicks in on Friday
Singapore has seen an encouraging increase in the sale of healthier beverages such as low- and zero-sugar options for sodas, Asian drinks and ready-to-drink teas, with more available when new regulations begin on Friday requiring them to carry grades.
The proportion of beverages bought by consumers that were graded “A” and “B”, indicating less sugar and saturated fat content, increased from 37 per cent in 2017 to 71 per cent of all sales in 2021, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Some higher-sugar juices have been reformulated through mixing with lower-sugar fruit and vegetables. The range of healthier all-in-one coffees and teas with lower saturated fat also increased from 24 per cent in 2017 to 36 per cent in 2021.
MOH announced the Nutri-Grade mark in 2019, comprising four grades classifying drinks from A to D, with D being the unhealthiest. The products include fruit juices and juice drinks, soft drinks, milk and yogurt drinks, and instant powdered beverages.
The move to introduce labelling requirements is part of a national effort to help people keep unhealthy diets in check and prevent diseases such as diabetes.
The rising proportion of healthier choices has come as median sugar levels in pre-packed Nutri-Grade beverages decreased from 7.1 per cent in 2017 to 4.6 per cent in 2021 and close to two-thirds of these beverages in the market are now graded “A” or “B”. This is more than double compared to 2017, where only about 30 per cent of pre-packed Nutri-Grade beverages in the market would have been graded “A” or “B”, MOH said.
Currently, one in five beverages in the market is tagged with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS), which indicates healthier packaged food options. These beverages are also graded “A” or “B”.
The mandatory nutrition labelling and advertising prohibition measures for pre-packaged beverages to come into effect on Friday are expected to extend to freshly prepared beverages by the end of 2023.
To reduce sugar intake, consumers are encouraged to limit their intake of beverages labelled “C” or “D”, and choose healthier beverages graded “A” or “B”, beverages labelled with HCS, or simply drink water instead, MOH said.
Singaporeans consume on average 60g, or 12 teaspoons of sugar, a day. More than half of this comes from beverages, especially pre-packaged drinks.