New survey by Action on Sugar exposes worryingly high sugar content of popular pre-mixed alcoholic drinks

21 January 2020

Today, expert campaign group Action on Sugar published a new survey of popular ‘ready to drink’ pre-mixed spirits and cocktails sold in major supermarkets, finding that:

  • Less than half (41%) of 154 products surveyed in-store had any form of on-pack nutrition labelling
  • Only 14 products had any sugar information on-pack, meaning that 9 out of 10 pre-mixed drinks had no on-pack sugar information
  • Drinks with the highest sugar content included a 700ml WKD Blue, containing 59g or 15 teaspoons of sugar per pack, and a 500ml TGI Fridays Passion Fruit Martini, containing 49g or 12 teaspoons of sugar per pack

We are concerned by the results of the survey, particularly as current public health messaging calls on us all to reduce our sugar intake - yet in this case, despite the high sugar content, consumers are not able to make an informed choice when purchasing these drinks, due to the lack of on-pack nutrition and calorie labelling available.

Alcohol and poor diet, of which excess sugar intake is a part, are both associated with an increased risk of many health conditions, including tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes and several cancers. Associated harms of both alcohol consumption and poor diet are particularly prevalent in areas of deprivation – leading to widening health inequalities, something both the Scottish and UK Governments say is a main policy focus. Despite this, there are currently no mandatory requirements for nutrition or calorie labelling on drinks containing over 1.2% alcohol.

Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead, Obesity Action Scotland commented:

Ready to drink alcoholic beverages may be convenient but this study shows the alarming amount of sugar the industry is adding to these products. These products aren’t required to have a nutrition label on them and we can see very few companies have chosen to provide this information. It is vital that customers be afforded an informed choice when purchasing food or drinks – there is no good reason why this should be any different simply because these drinks contain alcohol. The lack of available on-pack nutrition information, exposed by the survey, shows that voluntary self-regulation by the alcohol industry is not good enough.”