The boss of cordial manufacturer Belvoir Fruit Farms has criticised government plans to impose a sugar tax on soft drinks makers.
Pev Manners, the managing director of the £16 million turnover company set in the Vale of Belvoir, says the tax is unfair, demonises one product and will be ineffectual.
He warned the tax, which could be introduced in just two years, could hit investment, jobs and sales at the 30-year-old business, which employs 80 people.
Now he is urging the government to do a U-turn and drop the drinks levy plan.
Mr Manners said: “Part of the problem is that the tax outlined is currently very vague and so producers like Belvoir have been left in the dark as to how it will actually affect us.
“I am concerned the added cost incurred by the tax will either have to be absorbed by the business which could affect investment and in the long term possibly jobs, or we will have to add the extra cost onto the price of a bottle of Belvoir drink, which will adversely affect sales.”
To place a sugar tax on soft drinks producers alone is grossly unfair and likely to be ineffectual.Peveral Manners,
Under the plans laid out by Chancellor George Osborne in his Budget, the proposed Sugar Tax will have two bands.
Drinks containing eight grammes or more of sugar per 100 millilitres will incur a tax of eight pence a can while those of five grammes of sugar per 100 millilitres will be taxed at six pence a can.
The aim of the sugar tax, says the government, is to try and tackle rising obesity levels.
But Mr Manners, whose company has produced more than 20 million bottles supplying a range of about 15 cordials and 14 pressé varieties, said: “It isn’t drinks that cause obesity.
“It is the combined effect of eating too much fatty convenience food and confectionery such as ice creams, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets, with a lack of exercise.
“Drinking a soft drink which contains a reasonable amount of sugar such as in our Belvoir range, as part of a healthy diet, alongside moderate exercise does not create a weight problem.
“A singular targeting of the soft drinks industry amounts to little more than an attempt to acquire political capital whilst ignoring the real root causes of a significant societal problem.”
He added: “It is a poor overall diet, portion control in a number of food groups and lack of physical activity that is the cause and it is that, holistically, which the government should be looking at. “Demonising one specific product category alone is not the answer.
“In my opinion to place a sugar tax on soft drinks producers alone is grossly unfair and likely to be ineffectual.
The British Soft Drinks Federation is the official voice of the industry and will be leading any official lobbying on the industry’s behalf.
Mr Manners said; “I will be happy to lend my voice whenever possible to achieve a U turn on this arbitrary tax.”
Belvoir Fruit Farms also produces a range of Light drinks.
Mr Manners said: “We may need to further reformulate the Light range so they drop under the 5g per 100ml measure and avoid the tax; most of them are currently just over.
“This will obviously involve further expense.”