Netherlands: Dutch brewers oppose tax increase on non-alcoholic beverages

The Dutch Brewers' Association (Nederlandse Brouwers) and the Dutch Association of Soft Drinks, Waters, Juices (FWS) has spoken out against increasing the tax on non-alcoholic beverages that contain calories. They argue that the tax increase to just under EUR 15 per hectoliter is not logical, since it is intended to promote health but effectively has no steering effect with regard to a healthier diet and also applies to non-alcoholic beer.

In the Netherlands there has been a tax on non-alcoholic beverages since 1972. The tax is levied on fruit and vegetable juices, mineral water, lemonade and non-alcoholic beer and has been raised on a continuous basis up to EUR 8.83 per hectoliter in 2016. The tax was introduced to generate revenue. Other legal bases, for example those related to public health, were not discussed at the time.

It irritates the FWS that the cabinet is selling this tax increase as a preventive measure against obesity, while – according to the organistaion - it only fills the state coffers. “First, all drinks, with or without sugar, will become more expensive and only then will the cabinet examine how this fits into the principle of encouraging healthy choices and making unhealthy choices more difficult,” explains Taco Juriaanse, Secretary General at FWS in a statement today. “Certainly, at a time of high cost increases for consumers, it is unacceptable that a tax measure aimed at health targets should be introduced in this way when it is quite clear that the intended targets will not be achieved. So no health gains, but simply more expensive products in already expensive times,” Jurriaanse says.

Also the Dutch brewers are concerned. "We've been working for years at the government's request to reduce alcohol consumption by producing and promoting alcohol-free beer, and now they're standing in our way," complaines Fred Teeven, former State Secretary at the Ministry of Security and Justice and since June the new chair of Nederlandse Brouwers.

Over the past five years, alcohol-free beer consumption in the Netherlands has grown by almost 8 percent per year, while lager consumption has declined by almost 2% and beer mix drinks such as shandy by 3% over the same period. Only specialty beers were also able to grow by 2%, although not nearly as much as non-alcoholic beer. Every fifteenth beer drunk in the country is already non-alcoholic. The range of non-alcoholic beers has more than doubled in the past five years. The members of Nederlandse Brouwers offer more than 40 non-alcoholic varieties and almost all major Dutch beer brands now have at least one non-alcoholic variety.

“The fresh drinks industry is calling on the cabinet and House of Representatives not to implement this doubling of the consumption tax before 2023, but to introduce a smart soft drink tax based on the British model as soon as possible,” says Taco Juriaanse, Secretary General at FWS.

In April 2018, the UK introduced the so-called Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) that applies to packaged soft drinks containing at least 5g of sugar per 100ml of drink. (, 25.8.2016) The tax puts a charge of GBP 0,24 on drinks containing 8g of sugar per 100ml and GBP 0,18 a liter on those with 5-8g of sugar per 100ml.

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