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Plain packaging suggested on sugary drinks

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/09/2016

Plain packaging and warning labels could help to reduce young people's consumption of sugary drinks, according to Auckland University research.

The study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, also looked at the effects of taxes on predicted preferences for sugary drinks.

Lead researcher Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu says plain packaging had the most significant negative impact on young people's product choices.

"It was also associated with less positive perceptions of those who might consume the product," she said.

"These results align with findings from studies of plain packaging for tobacco products."

Prof Ni Mhurchu said a warning label on sugary drinks also had a significant negative impact.

A text-only warning, adopted in San Francisco as a public health policy to cut intake of sugary drinks, reduced perceived product attractiveness and also perceptions of consumer "coolness".

"Brand image and social recognition have a powerful influence on adolescents' preferences and decision making," Prof Ni Mhurchu said.

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

The study authors said that, given the success of tobacco taxes in reducing consumption, their finding of only a weak effect from a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks was unexpected.

This could be due to how taxes were used in the study, where price was displayed in text below the sugary drink image, rather than on a more prominent price label such as those used in supermarkets or convenience stores.

"The price information may not have been sufficiently obvious," Prof Ni Mhurchu said.

"Our finding may also reflect the relative importance of price and branding to young people."

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