Barr shares fall 5% on Osborne’s sugar levy

Shares of Cumbernauld-based Irn Bru maker A.G. Barr fell as much as 5% on Wednesday after UK finance minister George Osborne announced a new sugar levy on the soft drinks industry during his annual UK budget statement.

Osborne said the levy could raise up to £520 million and that “money from this new levy will be used to double the funding we dedicate to sport in every primary school.”

Healthy diet campaigner and TV cook Jamie Oliver tweeted: “We did it guys .. we did it.

“A sugar levy on sugary sweetened drinks. A profound move that will ripple around the world … business can not come between our kids’ health.

“Our kids’ health comes first. Bold, brave, logical and supported by all the right people.”

Osborne said the new levy will be introduced in two years’ time “to give companies plenty of space to change their product mix.”

Osborne said the levy will be assessed “on the volume of the sugar-sweetened drinks they produce or import.”

There will be two bandsin the levy — one for total sugar content above 5 grams per 100 millilitres and a second, higher band for the most sugary drinks with more than 8 grams per 100 millilitres.

Pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be excluded.

Barr chief executive Roger White said: “It is extremely disappointing that soft drinks have been singled out given it is the only food and drink category to have made any real progress in reducing sugar intake in recent years, down 13.6% since 2012.

“At AG Barr we have reduced the average calorific content across our brand range by 8.8% in just four years and are actively contributing to the soft drinks industry-wide five-year target to make a 20% reduction by 2020.

“We will await further details and ensure that we are fully involved in the consultation process to ensure our position, and progress to date, are well understood.”