Chief Executive's Blog: Energy Drinks

There's been a lot of debate recently about the sale of energy drinks to children.  It's interesting to see the dynamics of this issue: Jamie Oliver, buoyed by his success in persuading the government to introduce a levy on sugary drinks, has now turned his sights directly to the retailers who sell high caffeine drinks.  How do you, as a retailer, and we, as a trade body, respond to such a campaign?

There are a few preliminary questions that need clearing up.  The products in question here are those with more than 150mg of caffeine per litre.  This debate isn't about sugar (although Jamie Oliver himself has referred to sugar in these drinks, which is a different argument which has to a large extent been addressed by the soft drinks levy) so sports drinks generally aren't the issue here. These caffeinated products already include on their packaging advice that they are not suitable for children, or pregnant women. 

I'll move on to ACS' approach to the national political picture, but speaking directly to independent retailers, this is how we advise you to address this issue. Firstly, what are people in your community - particularly parents and teachers - saying about this? If you trade near a school or on a bus route to a school, think about being be pro-active and call the head teacher of the local school(s). Secondly, listen to what the issues are: is there are problem with pupils turning up in the morning having had a lot caffeine, and if so, where are they getting these products.

Thirdly, talk about the practical solutions in your local area.  Should you stop selling these products to children in the morning, or limit the number they buy, or stop selling them to under 16s, or use a lower age limit? Fourthly, if you adopt one or a combination of these policies, can you work with other local retailers to align all your approaches? Finally, if you have led this work, use it as a basis for establishing or improving your relationship with your local schools.

What you need to end up with is a workable policy, and a good relationship with local teachers and parents.  Let us know if we can help you to achieve this.

So what of the national picture? We're very clear that if the government wants to regulate to bring in an age restriction of 16 on these products, we'll support them in doing this.  Our latest Voice of Local Shops survey backs up this approach: 53% of independents already use an age limit, and a further 29% would support a government age restriction.

What we really can't do is police a voluntary age restriction, and symbol groups and wholesalers have got a similar problem because like us, they don't own and operate the stores in their membership.  I think that retailers have shown real leadership on this - as well as more than half of independents working to an age restriction, a number of big convenience retailers have adopted this policy. 

Our objective is to see more retailers engaging locally to arrive at the right policies for their community.  This should be the measure of success, and campaigners should be applauded for promoting awareness and good conversations that will ultimately help parents, schools, and children.

This entry was posted by Chloe on Tue, 06/03/2018 - 15:48