Two coffee shop associations back ‘Siew Dai by default’ , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Two coffee shop associations back ‘Siew Dai by default’

Two key coffee shop associations have backed the “Siu Dai by default” movement, which encourages food and beverage (F&B) operators here to make in-house beverages with less sugar the norm.

In local parlance, the term “siew dai” refers to beverages with less sugar, and is associated with coffee, tea and malted drinks.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) said Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung rallied the support of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association and Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar-Owners Association at a dialogue on Feb 21.

Both associations signed a joint statement of support that day, outlining their commitment to working with their members to reduce sugar content in beverages.

This includes offering beverages with less sugar, condensed milk and evaporated milk as a default, as well as partnering with HPB to promote these drinks and drive consumer acceptance.

Together, the two associations represent more than 500 members and make up more than 50 per cent of coffee shops in Singapore.

“Having both associations and their members on board the ‘Siu Dai by default’ movement increases the availability and accessibility of ‘siu dai’ drinks,” HPB said.

During the dialogue session, the associations said consumers are already increasingly requesting for drinks with less or no sugar. They added that public education of the movement should continue to encourage more to do so. 

Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar-Owners Association chairman Kenneth Lee said he does not expect business at coffee shops to be affected, and doubts there will be significant pushback from consumers.

This is because, while less sweetened drinks will become the default, customers can still opt for drinks with more sugar at no added cost.

“Coffee shops already don’t charge extra for drinks with extra sugar, so this move may actually reduce operating costs,” he said.

However, he added that some coffee shop operators and consumers will need time to settle into the new routine.

Mr Sunny Peh, the director of traditional coffee shop operator Kimly and a member of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, said he supports the movement as it is a good cause promoting healthier living.

“With the right message and education, the public should be able to accept the move. After all, it’s good for their well-being.”

HPB first announced the “Siu Dai by default” movement in September 2023 to curb excessive sugar intake in Singapore, noting that sugar-sweetened beverages were the single biggest source of dietary sugar here.

It warned that excessive sugar consumption is linked to an increased risk of obesity and chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

The agency has since distributed 4,500 “siu dai” kits to drinks stalls. Each kit contains recipe cards listing “siu dai” drink formulations and spoons for measuring the right amounts of sugar to help F&B operators prepare the drinks easily.

These stores can be identified by “siu dai” decals and wobblers displayed at shopfronts.

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