New research reveals plain packaging could reduce sugary drinks consumption

1 September 2016 (Last Updated September 1st, 2016 18:30)

A new study conducted by the University of Auckland in New Zealand has found that plain packaging and warning labels could help reduce the consumption of sugary drinks by young people.

A new study conducted by the University of Auckland in New Zealand has found that plain packaging and warning labels could help reduce the consumption of sugary drinks by young people.

The online research observed the effects of plain packaging, warning labels and taxes on young people’s preferences for sugary drinks.

Led by the university’s National Institute for Health Innovation professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu, the study found that placing a warning label on sugary drinks make a negative impression on young people’s predicted choices.

"We found that warning labels had a greater effect when placed on beverages with plain packaging compared with branded packaging."

According to Mhurchu, the study results are similar to those of studies related to plain packaging for tobacco products.

She said: “Our finding may also reflect the relative importance of price and branding to young people.

“Brand image and social recognition have a powerful influence on adolescents’ preferences and decision making.

“Plain packaging and warning labels could therefore be effective ways to reduce young people’s intake of sugary drinks and prevent childhood obesity.”

Other research has shown that parents buy fewer drinks with warning labels for their children after knowing the related health issues.

University of Auckland associate professor and research co-investigator Natalie Walker said: “Although graphic warning labels have not yet been proposed for sugary drinks, this research suggests they would be more effective than text warning labels.

“We found that warning labels had a greater effect when placed on beverages with plain packaging compared with branded packaging.

"This suggests that attractive branding and colours on sugary drinks may reduce the effectiveness of warning labels.”

The research has also found that a tax of 20% on sugary beverages has only a weak effect on young people's preferences.