The new initiative was officially launched on Thursday 5 May across all Costa stores nationwide, and is the culmination of a project between Jane Treasure, head of food and beverage development; Kerry Parkin, head of communications and CSR; and independent nutritional and scientific advisors.
All coffee, mocha and other drinks options have been tested against Costa’s own sugar calculator, which has been developed alongside independent scientific research, as well as the usual five-a-day government advice, and also takes into account factors such as vitamins and fibre, Costa said.
The sugars targeted concern simple added sugars, rather than natural fruit sugars or those contained within milk.
Any drinks with too-high sugar levels have either been taken off the menu, or reformulated using alternative ingredients where applicable, such as stevia. All products set to be introduced in autumn and winter will also be developed along the same lines. The move is aimed at all demographics, with a core target audience of young people in their 20s and 30s.
Examples of changes include the group’s red berry fruit cooler, which was taken off the menu, while the tropical fruit cooler was reformulated. The fruit cooler range now has 30 per cent less sugar this year than last year, while the creamy coolers have 8 per cent less.
New products created as part of the move also include three fresh fruit iced smoothies – named Super Day ‒ although new healthier lines also include a choice of calorie-controlled salad wraps. They come in the same week as the group's Seriously Summer range was introduced in selected stores.
The changes are to be communicated to customers via pack information in chilled cabinets, a calorie card displayed at the counter, and nutritional information online. All store managers have also been trained in the new ranges.
The initiative’s success is to be tested along the group’s usual numeric sales targets, plus consumer “soft” measures, such as questionnaires asking how the products “make consumers feel about Costa”. The targets are bold but not unachievable, said Treasure.
Parkin said: “This has been derived from a long piece of work, examining the nutritional content of our food. We have developed a nutritional calculator, doubled the size of our team, trained all our suppliers and given them all a road map to 2020. We have well over 2,000 stores in the UK, and we can make a real positive contribution.”
“This addresses a very real need. Customers like choice, so we sat down and asked, how can we address this practically, and make good decisions for our customers? It’s enabled us to prioritise every product, and run everything through the calculator, and also remember why our customers love to come into Costa. It’s so important that we innovate in this busy market," added Treasure.
The move is also happening alongside a wider appraisal of the calorie and fat content in Costa products, the group said, such as portion-controlled snacks and cakes, plus ongoing development of gluten-free and other allergen-aware products.
The initiative comes ahead of the Government's plans to introduce a sugar tax on drinks in 2018, announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his budget in March, and supported by campaigners such as chef Jamie Oliver, and Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, co-founders of healthy fast food group Leon.