Sugar Smart – the campaign continues

Thirst Link’s involvement in the Sugar Smart campaign has taken us “overseas”, or to the Isle of Wight to be precise.

The Isle of Wight Council’s 1Leisure and Vitalife Health have teamed-up to launch new healthy vending machines in its major leisure centres.  The machines are set up to accept all forms of payment options and offer almost 30 lines of healthy snacks and drinks, including dietary-specific products that are sugar-free, vegan, and gluten free.

The launch comes as part of the council’s Sugar Smart campaign to introduce a healthier offering to the centres’ members and visitors.

Isle of Wight Councillor Clare Mosdell said: “We know there are many causes for obesity including genetics, behaviour, the environment and our culture.  Sugar Smart Isle of Wight is a great opportunity for us to work together to help our local community, to raise awareness of hidden sugars.  I would encourage all Islanders, employers, food businesses, local retailers and schools to make a pledge to the initiative and help raise awareness of hidden sugars in food.

Millions raised by UK sugar tax

According to government figures, the UK’s sugar tax has already raised a massive £153.8 million in revenue since it was introduced in April 2018.

The tax was brought in as a means of tackling childhood obesity, and is being used to fund physical education activities in primary schools.

Interestingly, although many manufacturers have reduced the sugar content in their drinks products, over 450 traders have registered to pay the levy, the rate of which depends on the sugar content of the drink.  The figures show that more than 90% of revenue from the tax has come from traders paying the higher rate.

A spokesperson from the Treasury, said: “The figures show the positive impact the soft drinks levy is having by raising millions of pounds for sports facilities and healthier eating in schools, as well as encouraging manufacturers to cut sugar in over half the drinks found in UK stores. Helping our next generation to have a healthy and active childhood is a priority for us, and I’m pleased to see the industry is playing its part.”

It is a worrying statistic that the UK has one of the highest obesity rates among developed countries and that soft drinks are still the biggest source of sugar in children’s diets.

Apparently, 36 other countries are also implementing some form of tax on sugary drinks in order to combat this serious issue.



Another step taken to reduce sugar intake

European vending machine manufacturers are to implement a default zero sugar level on hot drinks machines.

A group within the European Vending Association (EVA) representing 20 machine manufacturers, unanimously decided at a recent meeting to set a zero-sugar level on hot drinks machines as standard – with the objective of helping lower unintentional intake of sugar for consumers.

This now means that all hot drinks vending machines will be configured as standard in the factory with no added sugar, unless a specific request has been made otherwise. So, in practice, consumers who don’t want sugar, will no longer have to take action at a machine to actually remove the sugar option.

Typically, manufacturers set up their machines in the factory to ensure that the highest quality coffee can be dispensed. Until now, however, to reflect consumers’ taste demands, some sugar may have been added to coffee-based drinks in the initial setup; a configuration that had been developed over years.

This is an important step taken by the European manufacturers, to stop unintentional sugar intake from vending machines, and shows their commitment to encourage a more nutritious offering at vending machines.

It should be noted that this action is from the machine manufacturers and does not cover vending machine operators who, after purchasing the machine, could eventually amend its setup and, of course, the consumer will have the final say whether to choose to add sugar to their hot drink….. or not.

Visions for vending at the NHS

Improving the health and wellbeing of NHS staff is a priority for the NHS and a new three-part indicator will focus on getting staff better access to health and wellbeing initiatives, supporting them to make healthy choices and lead healthy lives.

Estimates from Public Health England put the cost to the NHS of staff absence due to poor health at £2.4 billion a year – around £1 in every £40 of the total budget. Evidence from the staff survey and elsewhere shows that improving staff health and wellbeing will lead to higher staff engagement, better staff retention and better clinical outcomes for patients.

One of the major factors is the range and type of food available to staff, particularly those working shifts. It has previously been estimated that approximately 300,000 NHS staff are obese, with a further 400,000 staff being overweight. One of the main causes of this is diet and the consumption of foods high in fat, salt, saturate and sugar.

By focussing on making healthier food and drink more widely available, and good value for money, it is hoped to educate consumers about the alternatives available and encourage a change in diet.

Vending has a major part to play in this process and providers will be expected to achieve a step-change in the healthiness of the food offered in 2016/17, including:

■■ the banning of price promotions on sugary drinks and foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). The majority of HFSS foods fall within five product categories, namely, pre-sugared breakfast cereals, soft drinks, confectionery and savoury snacks

■■ banning the advertising of sugary drinks and HFSS foods on NHS premises. This extends to machines provided by suppliers that are permanently branded to promote these items, and

■■ ensuring that healthy options are available at any time of day, including for those staff working night shifts.

Thirst Link offers a free-of-charge independent professional consultancy service to NHS Trusts on how this can all be delivered via vending and how it can be continually and effectively monitored if required. 

Bringing the “Juicing Craze” to vending

In San Francisco a company called Juice Cold Pressed has begun a campaign to bring its Raw Juice Bot to fruition.

Juice Bot’s makers say their invention is “as convenient as a Coke machine, dispensing raw juice, pressed in your city.” The machine offers 24 customisable drink combinations that can be mixed and matched by the ounce. Four tanks inside the vender hold juiced greens, roots, citrus fruits and seasonal fruits.

Experienced raw juice drinkers may prefer to have a vegetable-dense drink, while consumers new to juicing may prefer a more fruit-dense juice, according to Juice Bot’s developers. Reusable glass jars are dispensed from the machine, which holds 220 of them behind a glass door that opens when the customer pays, then locks shut. Patrons can also choose to use their own containers. A 22″ interactive screen displays drink choices, pricing and nutritional information, along with instructions on how to use the machine.

With a 15-sq.ft. footprint, the machine is designed to fit in locations ranging from gyms and yoga studios to offices and apartment buildings. The machine is self-contained, requiring no water hookup or plumbing for installation.

Raw juice retains optimal freshness for only up to two days due to oxidation, which can significantly alter and reduce nutrients and enzymes in the product by the time it reaches the customer. “With the current distribution system, it is impossible to get a juice that is locally made, bottle-less and pressed fresh within 48 hours. That’s why we made our own distribution system specifically for raw juice,” the company said.


A vending machine that sells fresh, wholesome food

The Chicago-based company Farmer’s Fridge has begun offering a unique healthy vending concept. The company makes its salads, sides and snacks from scratch each morning, using organic ingredients from local farms when possible. It packages them in recyclable plastic jars and delivers them to its machines by 10 a.m.

The enterprise uses touchscreen venders wrapped in reclaimed barn wood. Nutrition data and ingredients are displayed in a large, easy-to-read format; patrons can purchase multiple items at once. Each machine contains a recycling bin for the empty plastic containers.

Menu selections range from a “high protein” salad — with spinach, corn, peas, pumpkin seeds, figs, broccoli, chickpeas, shredded Parmesan and quinoa — to heartier meals like lemon pepper chicken, baked tofu and poached salmon. Snacks and sides include Greek yogurt parfait, sliced vegetables and cauliflower fried rice.

Salads are discounted by $1 at 6 p.m. nightly and Farmer’s Fridge removes the unsold salads each morning when it services the machine and donates them to a local food bank.

Tea is the number one drink for health

Tea is the number one drink for health. It’s also our absolute favourite according to a recent BBC programme. Nothing we eat or drink in Britain comes close. We drink 165 million cups every day. That’s 15 billion litres of tea every year. The good news is that tea is very good for us. The following e-news from the Tea Advisory Panel reviews some of the latest research that continues to highlight the many health benefits of a good cuppa.

It is a common belief that caffeinated drinks, such as tea, may adversely affect body hydration levels. We are sometimes given advice to limit consumption of caffeinated drinks, or drink water alongside them. A randomised cross-over trial in adults has investigated whether or not this claim is true in relation to tea drinking.

In a cross-over trial, 21 healthy men were randomised to drink either four or six mugs of regular ‘black’ tea, or similar amounts of boiled water over one day. There was a five day washout period between the tea and water conditions. All men took part in all test conditions and, during these, blood and urine samples were taken at regular intervals to monitor hydration status. It was important to have measures of both blood and urine as this is the gold standard method for assessing hydration.

The results revealed that the various indicators of hydration status, e.g. blood and urine osmolality, total urine volume, blood urea, were no different after drinking tea or water. This suggests that drinking up to 6 mugs of tea daily has similar hydrating properties to drinking plain water. Average tea intakes in the UK are currently 2-3 servings per day which are well within the limits tested in this study. These findings therefore suggest that drinking up to six cups of tea per day, has similar hydrating properties to water. The average intake of tea in the UK is two to three cups per day, so most tea drinkers are within the six cups per day range.

Irish considering reducing VAT on fruit in Vending Machines


The Irish Health Minister James Reilly has again signalled that a tax on fatty and sugary foods may be on the cards.

Mr Reilly said he is considering a charge and has invited members of the food industry to meet him on the matter.

He made the comments at the launch of a report on obesity among children which found that a quarter of nine-year-olds are overweight.

Minister Reilly said there are other things under consideration, including a reduced VAT rate on vending machines that sell fruit.

Mr Reilly said: “The real key here is to make the right thing the easy thing to do.

“For instance, the vending machines in schools, instead of having snacks that are rich in calories, I would like to see an initaitive around that reduced VAT on machines that sell fresh fruit.”

Carrot Vending Machines!

At the beginning of September last year, pupils at Mason High School in Cincinnati found something unusual in their canteen. Alongside the traditional vending machines that had been supplying them with chocolates, crisps and fizzy drinks for most of their formative years, was another machine – painted bright orange – selling nothing but carrots. Exactly the same size and shape as a conventional snack machine, the fresh produce on its shelves was packaged in small, opaque, crinkly bags similar to the sort of bags crisps come in. There were a number of different designs – one featured a weird orange alien creature on a green background, another had a black carrot-shaped object travelling through space – but inside all of the bags was the same thing: about three ounces of washed and peeled baby carrots, selling for 50 cents a bag.

Just in case the broad brush strokes on the packaging hadn’t got the message across, a strapline, in bold white lettering on the side of the machine, hammered the point home: “Baby carrots. Eat ‘em like junk food”.

The response was startling. Within an hour, pupils all over the school were walking around, munching on their new orangey treats. In the weeks that followed, the machine was emptied faster than the manufacturers could fill it.

“If they wanted a snack, they bought a bag of carrots,” recalls Tim Keeton, Mason’s assistant principal. “It easily got as much custom as our other vending machines which were selling the normal range of stuff; Sun Chips, Doritos, Cheetos and chocolate chip cookies.” The machine is no longer at the school. It was part of a six-month trial by one of the largest growers of carrots in the United States, Bolthouse Farms. But Bryan Reese, a graduate of the US Army’s West Point academy and the company’s head of marketing, believes the results of the test, which took place in schools and supermarkets in both Cincinnati and Syracuse, New York, herald the beginning of a new era in snack food.

Coffee perks up your feelings!

A woman’s daily dose of coffee may do more than just keep her perky and awake; a couple of cups may even steer her away from depression.

According to a study of 50,000 female respondents that was recently published in the archives of Internal Medicin, women who drank two or more cups of coffee every day were less likely to be diagnosed with depression over a 10-year span compared to other women who did not drink as much coffee. Women who drank two to three cups of coffee were 15 percent less likely to be treated for depression, while those who drank four or more had a 20 percent lower risk.

While restricted to an observational study that may not produce any causality, it can be inferred from the study that women who are more sensitive to coffee and therefore drink less of it and are exposed to its stimulants less could be more likely to experience bouts of depression.