Thailand’s government is considering measures to regulate the advertising of soft drinks, including green tea, which it says is behind the country’s soaring sugar consumption.
Sutha Jienmaneechotchai, deputy director-general of the Department of Health, said a proposal would be made to consumer protection and food authorities that identified ways to reduce sugar use.
Thais consume on average 104g, equivalent to 26 teaspoons, of sugar a day—over twice the level recommended by the World Health Organisation—according to official figures.
Though traditional sources of sugar in Thai diets, largely derived from rice and fruit, are not considered harmful when part of a balanced regime, Dr Sutha said the current trend towards processed foods, and sugary drinks in particular, has been taking sugar consumption to excessive levels.
He said green tea was found to contain the levels of 12-14 teaspoons per serving while iced coffees, carbonated soft drinks and packaged juGM Expo contained around 10 teaspoons of sugar.
He singled out soft drink promotions that offered cars and gold to consumers for helping to boost Thailand’s sugar rush.
Bottle cap contests have increased lately in Thailand’s highly competitive beverage market after they were introduced by high-profile businessman Tan Passakornnatee several years ago.
Iced tea brands such as Ichitan, Yen Yen and Rishi have been behind recent campaigns in Thailand to give away new iPhones, Mercedes-Benz cars and other riches in return for buying their products.
“Thai people like lucky draw campaigns,” said Dr Sutha. “Letting companies freely arrange the promotions has boosted consumption.
”Thailand’s soft drinks market was worth THB46bn (US$1.3bn) last year, according to W&R Research figures. The same study found that over a quarter of Thais consume a soft drink three or four times each week.