Leading beverage companies in Barbados, along with the Barbados Manufacturing Association (BMA) and Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, announced on Tuesday that they will employ a set of strategies to promote a healthier lifestyles through product innovation, reduced calorie consumption, and a national public awareness campaign.
Barbados Bottling Company, Banks Holding Limited (BHL), and Hanschell Inniss Limited, along with the BMA and the Chamber of Commerce are working together to launch active, voluntary initiatives to reduce beverage calories in the Barbadian diet.
The national campaign titled: “Balance What You Eat, Drink and Do” will be focussed on introducing and promoting a wider variety of reduced-calorie beverages and a greater variety of portion sizes, a news release from the beverage coalition said.
“We are amplifying and building on our commitments as an industry,” General Manager of Barbados Bottling, Andre Thomas said.
“We have been responding with new products as we know people want more choices to help reduce calories and sugar consumption in their diet.
“Our companies and partners are committed to innovating products with less sugar or no sugar at all, plus a greater variety of portion sizes to support efforts to find balance.”
The beverage coalition will employ strategies that leverage their expertise in marketing, distribution, and product innovation, including:
(1) Introducing new beverage products with fewer calories and offering products in smaller package sizes (e.g., mini cans).
(2) Featuring reduced calorie beverages more prominently, including bottled water.
(3) Enhancing marketing of existing beverage products with reduced calories per ounce.
(4) Engaging in the BCI Initiative, a consumer awareness program to encourage balance and moderation in calorie consumption.
(5) Promoting clearer, easy to find calorie and nutrition information on our packaging.
In addition, the companies and partners are adopting school beverage guidelines and innovative marketing strategies in Barbados.
“Our companies are focussed on building stronger partnerships with retailers, government, and NGOs in a national initiative to promote balanced, healthier lifestyles in Barbados,” Chief Executive Officer of Hanschell Inniss Limited, Vidia Woods said.
“The balance calories initiative was successfully launched in other parts of the globe with the critical message of ‘Balance What You Eat, Drink and Do’. These three daily actions encourage balance and mindful consumption of calories, shared.
“Through this public campaign and other actions, we will do our part to remind everyone to think ‘balance’ before making choices.”
The programme also involves a series of pledges, including shifting the availability of full calorie beverages in primary and secondary schools.
Under these guidelines, the beverage companies will work with the public and private school systems to promote responsible beverage consumption in the school system.
In addition, juices, milk, water, certain low and no-calorie beverages and calorie-capped sports drinks, and flavoured waters will be available in secondary schools.
“We understand the responsibilities associated with beverages and children,” Country Manager, Banks Holdings Limited, Shafia London said. “We will be collaborating with schools to provide the most appropriate products for students in primary and secondary school environments.”
The decision of the beverage companies comes after government took action to improve population health by getting sugar consumption under control with a 20% tax on sweetened beverages such as sodas, flavoured milks, energy drinks, and many more.
The tax came into effect on April 1 this year, and it aims at tackling skyrocketing rates of obesity and related chronic conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
SSB taxation is one of the priority policy areas for civil society organisations working for healthier populations, such as the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados, which both advocated for the sugar sweetened beverage tax increase from 10% to the current rate.