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Australia’s non-alcoholic drinks companies, including Coca-Cola South Pacific, Coca-Cola Amatil, PepsiCo, Asahi Beverages and Frucor Suntory, have pledged to cut the sugar in their products by 20 per cent by 2025.

The Australian Beverages Council, the peak body representing the non-alcoholic beverages industry described the commitment as historic, said the pledge it applies to all categories of non-alcoholic drinks represented by its members.

Products covered by the pledge include carbonated soft drinks, energy drinks, sports and electrolyte drinks, frozen drinks, bottled and packaged waters, juice and fruit drinks, cordials, iced teas, ready-to-drink coffees, flavoured milk products and flavoured plant milks.

Australian Beverages Council CEO Geoff Parker said Australia’s non-alcoholic beverage industry was serious about supporting healthier lifestyles.

“That’s why leading beverage companies in Australia have united for the first time to commit to reducing sugar across the industry by 20 per cent on average by 2025,” Parker said.

“This commitment is the first example in Australia where an industry as a whole has self-regulated its use of sugar in this manner.”

The Australian Government said it welcomed the beverage industry’s sugar reduction pledge, and the Minister for Health Greg Hunt, endorsed the commitment in an announcement at Parliament House this week.

“Today’s sugar reduction commitment by the non-alcoholic beverages sector is a clear sign that industry is taking additional steps to support our initiatives to maintain a healthy diet and to lead an active life,” the minister said.

"It is particularly important that the industry has worked constructively with a number of farming and agricultural groups, particularly those in the sugarcane growing industry ahead of this announcement.”

The Australian Beverages Council said it had engaged with a range of health, industry, supplier and government stakeholders over the last two years in considering the pledge, however some health lobbyists were critical of the announcement, saying it was an attempt by the industry to stave off a sugar tax.

A review of the pledge will be evaluated by an independent auditor in two components: a 10 per cent reduction by 2020 and a total of 20 per cent by 2025.

The auditing process and commitments are based on annual sales weighted volume data as of 1 January 2016. The auditor will certify individual company portfolios confidentially to assess progress and contribution to the industry’s pledge, and details of the appointment of an auditor will be announced in the coming months.

“All stakeholders, including the Government, expect us to critically evaluate this initiative. We intend to ensure a rigorous and continuous independent review process through to 2025 to ensure all signatories contribute to the industry’s commitment to reduce sugar,” Parker said.

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