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We can’t go a day without seeing another arresting headline highlighting the growing obesity crisis facing the country. And the recent news from a potential prime minister that he may review ‘sin taxes’ such as the sugar tax will have been a controversial move that could stunt a fight against obesity.

Not only proven to shorten individual lifespans, having to tackle the many obesity related health issues is putting increasing strain on the NHS and the stretched resources it has at its disposal.  Latest figures from NHS Digital say that 64% of adults in England are overweight, while, shockingly, one in 20 women are classed as ‘morbidly obese’.

Something has to be done and the food and beverage industry needs to help in order to play its part in reversing what is a nightmare scenario.

A prime example is found in the impact of the high sugar content of many popular soft drinks. The makers of which were hit strongly when the sugar tax was introduced.

As a well-known source of unwanted calories, heavy sugar consumption is one of the many contributory factors fuelling the obesity epidemic. When we consider that the average soft drink consumption level per individual per year exceeds 200 litres – that adds up to a lot of sugar!

The need for sugar in soft drink production emanates from the standard method of cleaning water from source. This creates an acidic medium and a pH level of 6.1.  Sugar, flavours and carbon are added to counteract what is a resulting salty and bitter taste in order to ensure the water used is palatable for consumers.  The problem is that the addition further reduces the pH level, often creating a level of just 2.5.

WET Group has been involved in a ground breaking research project alongside Innovate UK, the University of Sheffield and De Montfort University.  The findings from this important work has clearly proven that if drink production can maintain a high pH level and lower the amount of total dissolved solids (TDS), it then removes the production need for any sugar additions.

TDS presence as a result of water infiltration can be due to a variety of reasons such as agricultural run off or soil contamination.  It is not known to produce adverse health reactions, but is normally addressed to improve the aesthetic characteristics of drinking water.

With existing techniques unable to adjust the pH value of reverse osmosis water, the ability of WET Group’s ground breaking AES technology to overcome the issue is set to be a real game-changer.

It can reverse the manufacturing need for the food and beverage industry to introduce sugar and other agents to their products, and alternatively produce drinks that are not only lower in calories, but also a powerful tool in the fight against obesity.

The AES technology creates high pH/low TDS water using a proprietary process to mimic nature. The AES produces an alkaline pH which can be set at any level up to pH 10.5 without ionisation. This water doesn’t fall below a pH of 9 after flavourings have been added, so that added sugar isn’t needed to counteract the acidity that no one wants.

The process has been found to have wide-ranging applications for soda soft drinks, zero alcohol beverages, Cannabidiol (CBD)-infused water and fermented drinks, with the AES technology now readily available to drinks manufacturers that create drinks for customers.

In addition, the drinks created in the research process not only maintained a higher pH, they also showed no microbial growth when exposed to 12 weeks of accelerated shelf-life testing at ambient and abusive temperatures of 20°C and 30°C. These drinks also contained less than 0.1 g of sugar per 100 ml.

We have to constantly innovate if, as a society, we are to make inroads towards solving the ticking obesity time bomb and successfully tackle the range of health-related issues it causes, including the reported increase of diabetes cases.

With the food and beverage industry facing an ongoing challenge to reduce sugar, salt and fat across all foodstuffs without alienating consumer taste preferences, research of this kind points to the fact that technically advanced solutions are increasingly available to help them do so. Businesses don’t need to remove the sugar tax to thrive, they need to look to alternatives and innovations that the scientific community offers.