One third of hot drinks in high-street chains 'as sugary as Coca-Cola'

Campaign group says coffee chains should cut the amount of sugar in drinks and improve labelling

One third of hot drinks served in high-street chains contain the same or more sugar than Coca-Cola, according to a campaign group.

Action on Sugar said it analysed 131 hot flavoured drinks, including coffees, mochas, lattes, hot fruit drinks and hot chocolates among other drinks that are widely bought from some of the UK’s best-known coffee shops and fast-food chains.

Calling the findings “shocking”, a spokesman for the charity said that 98 per cent of the drinks tested would receive a red nutritional-value label for high-sugar content.

A third of the hot drinks tested contained the same amount or more sugar than Coca-Cola, which contains nine teaspoons of sugar per can, the spokesman said.

Action on Sugar’s chair, Professor Graham MacGregor, said it was “another example of the scandalous amount of sugar added to our food and drink – no wonder we have the highest rates of obesity in Europe”. 

With a total of 25 teaspoons of sugar per serving, the worst offender was Starbucks’ venti grape with chai, orange and cinnamon hot mulled fruit, the campaign group found.

Costa’s massimo eat-in chai latte was found to contain 20 teaspoons of sugar, while Starbucks’ venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream was found to have 18.

KFC’s mocha and Starbucks’ signature hot chocolate both had 15 teaspoons of sugar per serving, while Caffe Nero’s drink-in caramelatte had 13, the charity said. 

A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company had committed earlier this year to reducing added sugar in its indulgent drinks by 25 per cent by the end of 2020. She said it also offered “a wide variety of lighter options” and displayed all nutritional information in-store and online.

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Kerry Parkin, head of communications at Costa, said the company had “already taken significant steps to reduce the sugar content of our ranges”. She added: “This April, we will be setting salt and sugar reduction targets for 2020.”

But Action on Sugar researcher Kawther Hashem said coffee-shop chains should “immediately reduce the amount of sugar in these hot drinks, improve their labelling and stop selling the extra-large serving sizes”.

She added: “These drinks should be an occasional treat, not an ‘everyday’ drink. They are laden with an unbelievable amount of sugar and calories and are often accompanied by a high sugar and fat snack.” 

The research comes ahead of the Government’s childhood obesity strategy, which is due to be unveiled in the coming weeks. It will reportedly recommend that junk-food adverts should be banned from being screened near “family programmes” such as The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

A feasibility study is also likely to be launched to establish how a compulsory sugar tax could work if firms did not take adequate measures.

Proposals for a sugar tax of up to 20 per cent and the threat of a levy to pressure companies into reformulating their products to reduce sugar content have been championed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, among others. 

Mr Oliver recently urged the PM to “be bold” in order to “shift Britain” away from an obesity crisis.

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Starbucks’ venti Grape with Chai, Orange and Cinnamon Hot Mulled Fruit had 25 teaspoons of sugar per serving, Action on Sugar said. 

This was closely followed by their Hot Mulled Fruit – Apple with Chai, Dried Apple and Cinnamon Venti with 22 and Costa Coffee’s massimo eat-in Chai Latte, which the campaign group said contained 20 teaspoons of sugar. 

Starbucks’ venti White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream was found to have 18, while KFC’s mocha and Starbucks’ Signature Hot Chocolate both had 15 teaspoons of sugar. 

Caffe Nero’s drink-in Caramelatte had 13 as did Costa Coffee’s Mocha Massimo eat-in and Starbucks Chai Latte Tea venti, the charity said. 

Costa’s eat-in and eat-out Mocha Cortado and Chocolate Babycino were found to have three teaspoons each.  

Starbucks Caramel Macchiatto short and Pumpkin Spice Latte with Whip Short were found to have four, along with Leon’s Hot Chocolate and Costa’s Roasted Hazelnut Latte Primo eat-in.