Three Times the Daily Intake of Sugar Found in Some UK Hot Drinks


17 Feb 2016 --- New research by Action on Sugar shows that 98% of the 131 hot flavored drinks analyzed would receive a ‘red’ (high) label for excessive levels of sugars per serving as sold. As much as 25 teaspoons of sugar can be found in some drinks, which is more than three times the recommended maximum daily intake for adults.

With an estimated 1.7 billion cups of coffee sold each year in the UK from over 18,000 outlets and one in five of the population (including teenagers) visiting a coffee shop daily, campaign group Action on Sugar is warning of the dangerously high sugar content of certain hot beverages found in many high street coffee shop chains.

Alarmingly, 35% of the hot flavored drinks contain the same amount or more sugars than Coca Cola, which contains a massive 9 teaspoons of sugar per can – equivalent to 7 chocolate biscuits.

Kawther Hashem, Registered Nutritionist and Researcher for Action on Sugar tells FoodIngredientsFirst that people are not aware of the levels of sugar in drinks which is why they did the survey. She explains: "Despite the perceived ‘healthy’ marketing when it comes to certain teas, it’s astonishing to learn that a Costa Coffee’s Chai Latte (large) contains a massive 20 teaspoons of sugar per serving followed by Starbucks’s Chai Tea Latte Venti (extra-large) with 13 teaspoons alongside Eat’s Chai Latte Big and Matcha Latte Big at 11 teaspoons."

The worst offender is the Starbucks’s Hot Mulled Fruit - Grape with Chai, Orange and Cinnamon Venti (extra-large) – a mix of chai and fruit concentrate, topped with a cinnamon stick and a slice of orange – which contains 25 teaspoons of sugar (that’s the equivalent of sugar in 5 muffins), followed by Costa Coffee’s Chai Latte (large) with a massive 20 teaspoons of sugar. Interestingly, a Starbucks’s Hot Mulled Fruit - Grape with Chai, Orange and Cinnamon Tall (medium) has almost half the amount of sugar than the larger sized cup (13 vs 25 tsp).

Worst offenders for each type of flavoured hot drink per serving:




Sugars per serving (g)

Teaspoons of sugar per serving**


Hot Mulled Fruit - Grape with Chai, Orange and Cinnamon - Venti

Hot Mulled Fruit




Chai Latte - Massimo - Eat In

Chai Latte




White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream - Venti

White Mocha




Signature Hot Chocolate - Venti

Hot Chocolate








Caffe Nero

Caramelatte – Drink In

Caramel Latte



* Contains some sugars (lactose) naturally occurring in the milk.

** 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Worryingly, from the entire out-of-home hot drinks surveyed, 55% contain the equivalent, or more than, the maximum daily recommended amount of sugars for an adult and teenager (30g – 7tsp/d).

Hasham says: "Coffee shop chains must immediately reduce the amount of sugar in these hot drinks, improve their labeling and stop selling the extra-large serving sizes."


She adds: "Our advice to consumers is to have a plain hot drink or ask for your drink to contain a minimal amount of syrup, preferably sugar free, in the smallest serving size available."


Starbucks sells two sizes larger than a typical medium serving size of 340ml, at 454ml & 568ml – adding to the excessive sugar intake in many of its hot flavored drinks. These serving sizes are much larger than those offered by its competitors. It is time coffee chains stopped serving extra-large cups of sugar-laden hot drinks.


Despite the negative attention that the likes of Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero attracted last year after reports that some of their Christmas drinks were full of fat and sugar, it’s clear that little has been done to rectify the situation and reduce sugar ladened drinks from their menus.


Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London, Chair of Action on Sugar says: “This is yet again another example of scandalous amount of sugar added to our food and drink. No wonder we have the highest rates of obesity in Europe."


He adds: “Cameron now has all the evidence to make the UK the first country in the world to stop the obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic.  To do this Cameron has to be radical and follow every single action that we have set out in our comprehensive plan. Otherwise it will be the final nail in an already bankrupt NHS.”


Hashem concludes: “These hot flavored drinks should be an occasional treat, not an ‘everyday’ drink. They are laden with an unbelievable amount sugar and calories and are often accompanied by a high sugar and fat snack. It is not surprising that we have the highest rate of obesity in Europe."


by Elizabeth Kenward

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