Shocking amount of sugar found in High Street hot drinks

With an estimated 1.7 billion cups of coffee sold each year in the UK from over 18,000 outlets and one in five of the population (including teenagers) visiting a coffee shop daily[1], campaign group Action on Sugar is warning of the dangerously high sugar content of certain hot beverages found in many high street coffee shop chains.

Coffee late soft focus

This new research by Action on Sugar shows that 98 per cent of the 131 hot flavoured drinks analysed would receive a ‘red’ (high) label for excessive levels of sugars[2] per serving as sold.[3]

What’s more, 35 per cent of the hot flavoured drinks contain the same amount or more sugars than Coca Cola, which contains a massive 9 teaspoons of sugar per can[4] – equivalent to 7 chocolate biscuits.[5]

The worst offender is the Starbuck’s Hot Mulled Fruit – Grape with Chai, Orange and Cinnamon Venti (extra-large) – a mix of chai and fruit concentrate, topped with a cinnamon stick and a slice of orange – which contains 25 teaspoons of sugar (that’s the equivalent of sugar in 5 muffins)[6], followed by Costa Coffee’s Chai Latte (large) with a massive 20 teaspoons of sugar. Interestingly, a Starbuck’s Hot Mulled Fruit – Grape with Chai, Orange and Cinnamon Tall (medium) has almost half the amount of sugar  than the larger sized cup (13 vs 25 tsp).

Worryingly, from the entire out-of-home hot drinks surveyed, 55 per cent contain the equivalent, or more than, the maximum daily recommended amount of sugars for an adult and teenager (30g – 7tsp/d).

When it comes to hot drinks that are perceived to be ‘healthy’, a Starbuck’s Chai Tea Latte Venti (extra-large) contains 13 teaspoons of sugar per serving alongside Eat’s Chai Latte Big and Matcha Latte Big at 11 teaspoons.

Starbucks sells two sizes larger than a typical medium serving size of 340ml, at 454ml & 568ml – adding to the excessive sugar intake in many of its hot flavoured drinks. These serving sizes are much larger than those offered by its competitors. It is time coffee chains stopped serving extra-large cups of sugar-laden hot drinks.

Despite the negative attention that the likes of Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero attracted last year after reports that some of their Christmas drinks were full of fat and sugar, it’s clear that little has been done to rectify the situation and reduce sugar ladened drinks from their menus.[7]

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, Chair of Action on Sugar says,

‘This is yet again another example of scandalous amount of sugar added to our food and drink. No wonder we have the highest rates of obesity in Europe. ‘Cameron now has all the evidence to make the UK the first country in the world to stop the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic. To do this Cameron has to be radical and follow every single action that we have set out in our comprehensive plan. Otherwise it will be the final nail in an already bankrupt NHS.’

Kawther Hashem, Registered Nutritionist and Researcher for Action on Sugar says,

‘Coffee shop chains must immediately reduce the amount of sugar in these hot drinks, improve their labelling and stop selling the extra-large serving sizes.
‘These hot flavoured drinks should be an occasional treat, not an ‘everyday’ drink. They are laden with an unbelievable amount sugar and calories and are often accompanied by a high sugar and fat snack. It is not surprising that we have the highest rate of obesity in Europe. Our advice to consumers is to have a plain hot drink or ask for your drink to contain a minimal amount of syrup, preferably sugar free, in the smallest serving size available.’

Nicola Close, Chief Executive of the Association of Directors of Public Health says,

‘These results highlight the need for more transparency on sugar content and compulsory labelling of sugar content. Drinkers deserve to know how much sugar they are consuming.’

Starbucks spokesperson says,

‘Earlier this year we committed to reduce added sugar in our indulgent drinks by 25 per cent by the end of 2020. We also offer a wide variety of lighter options, sugar-free syrups and sugar-free natural sweetener and we display all nutritional information in-store and online.’

Pret’s Orange Spiced Hot Chocolate and Orange Spiced Latte were delisted at the beginning of January as they were seasonal specials.

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