Cherwell

Debate: Should there be less sugar in our Coco Pops?

Yes: Annie Zykova, LMH

If you have recently felt an inexplicable wave of disappointment as you dived into a bowl of Coco Pops in the expectation of a sweet chocolatey bliss, you are not alone. Kellogg’s has recently modified the recipe of its famous cereal by reducing its sugar content by 40 per cent, in the aim of creating a healthier alternative. The public, as seen on Twitter, have voiced their dissatisfaction with the change, claiming that the new recipe tastes dramatically worse and is, simply put, not the product they paid for. However, this wave of anger in response to an isolated incident risks undermining the fact that such changes are ultimately a step in the right direction in terms of improving the nation’s health.

Indeed, it has recently been revealed that Britain is the most obese country in Western Europe, and the percentage of individuals suffering from diabetes in the country has doubled over the last two decades. Clearly the growth in scientific knowledge about the food we eat has not translated into changes in our everyday food consumption. The solution to this problem, however, is not as simple as it may seem at first glance.

Taking control of the food products that the population consumes may initially seem a bit too paternalistic and ‘nanny state’. However, given that the majority of the nation’s most popular ‘go-to’ brands have such a high sugar content, it is unsurprising that health figures are so worrying. Many continue to buy these brands because they are familiar, they are the ‘default’ options. As such, the consumption of such unhealthy food products is reinforced and ingrained into daily life. By popularising healthier alternatives, the risk of consuming these harmful foods, with worrying amounts of sugar, is automatically reduced.

Of course, such a dramatic reduction in sugar content is likely to modify taste, which will evidently not be favoured by all. But people will still be free to buy supplementary sugar or any other flavourings and add these should they so wish, but this extra step will act as an obstacle to high sugar consumption. This would therefore separate those customers who truly wish to consume so much sugar from those who simply had little other choice.

Such negative feedback to the new product by Kellogg’s should push the company to modify its recipe and improve its taste. It is a recipe failure that can occur in any food product, regardless of its sugar content. It should therefore not be viewed as a reason for not improving the nutritional value of popular but unhealthy foods. Indeed, more food companies should employ similar strategies to solve the problem of Britain’s growing waistlines.

No: Joanna Lonergan, LMH 

It’s Monday evening. For lunch, I had a sad ham salad sandwich – featuring wilting lettuce and soft tomatoes  – and a packet of slightly stale Skips, but I soldiered through. This is because I was safe in the knowledge that Dad had done a food shop for when I got home and that my beloved Coco Pops would therefore be waiting in the cupboard.

On the new box (which, by the way, is slightly smaller), Coco the monkey brandishes a scroll boasting an ‘improved recipe’. A sense of dread washed over me – is nothing sacred?

Kellogg’s claims the new recipe keeps ‘the great chocolatey taste you know and love’. This is a lie. Eating the box would taste better than eating what’s inside.

And what is inside? Dust. Or something like it. Anyone who tries to tell you that reducing the sugar means you can enjoy your treat more often, or ‘without the guilt’, is probably someone who believes their ‘courgetti’ tastes just like spaghetti. They should not be trusted.

RIP my midnight bowl of Coco Pops.

Public Health England says almost a third of British children are overweight. There’s no point trying to pretend that sugar isn’t a major contributor in this. But the real issue here isn’t the amount of sugar in our food, but our attitude and approach.

Adults have to take responsibility for providing their kids with healthy options and monitoring their sugar intake. Coco Pops were never advertised as a healthy option – they’re a treat to be incorporated into a balanced diet.

Obviously, too much sugar is bad for anyone. But the hardline approach to controlling a child’s sugar intake is not the way to educate them on a balanced diet. It’s also impossible to keep children away from sugar. Your sugar-free toddler may devour pureed spinach like it’s an ice cream sundae, but this can’t last forever. One day they’ll go to a birthday party and eat the cake – and God forbid it won’t be made from almond flour, dates and raw cacao. Attempting to rigidly regiment a child’s sugar intake just leads to unnecessary anxiety for both the parent and the child themselves.

Instead, parents should work on teaching their kids the difference between everyday foods and treats. Kellogg’s decision to reduce the amount of sugar in their Coco Pops removes parents’ ability to decide for their kids. If parents, instead of offering Coco Pops every day, offered them only on the weekends as a treat, this would go a long way to reducing their child’s sugar consumption. It would also prevent everyone’s favourite snack being ruined box by box, because let’s remember cereal isn’t exclusively for kids.

I’m a firm believer in everything in moderation, and I’ve now been forced to find my moderation in Frosties (which, for now, still retain twice as much sugar as the original Coco Pops). It’s about balance, and slashing the sugar just muffles the core issue. It might work in cutting down the sugar in our diets, but only because we throw away the box after the first bowl.