UNESDA priorities and aspirations for 2019-2024

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Promoted content

This article is part of our special report A circular economy retrospective.

UNESDA’s Aspirations for the 2019-24 legislative period address the three core areas of Sustainability, Responsibility and Competitiveness.

They build on the priorities of the entire food and drink industry and articulate a single market purposed around: Growing sustainably, Serving consumers, and Feeding Europe’s economy.


We are committed to driving sustainability throughout our value chain – from production and distribution through to packaging, collection, recycling and reuse. Climate change has crucial implications for the sustainability and competitiveness of our sector, and we support the European Commission’s objective of building a sustainable Europe by 2030.

We use plastic, metal, glass and carton packaging and have invested in significant light-weighting and design initiatives across all packaging to reduce raw material use and CO2 emissions. Soft drinks companies have set up and run packaging collection schemes across the EU, and PET drinks bottles are the most recycled item in Europe.

We call on policymakers to:

  • Support us in driving optimal collection, recycling and reuse of all our packaging – including plastics
    • This requires coordinated action from all stakeholders – national and local authorities, industry and consumers;
  • Focus on boosting single use plastics collection rates to 90% by 2029;
    • Ensure a sufficient supply of food grade quality rPET to meet our voluntary pledges and the legislative targets set by the SUP directive. rPET demand has been boosted thanks to EU plastics policy, however, food grade quality supply has not kept pace;
  • Rapidly authorise the recycling processes already assessed by EFSA in order to support the creation of a sufficient supply of food grade quality rPET;
  • Support the Circular Plastics Alliance set up by the European Commission to gather stakeholders from across the value chain in exploring how to overcome obstacles to a more efficient circular economy’;
  • Apply Better Regulation principles to environmental sustainability legislation, including appropriate impact assessments to ensure legislation is fit for purpose.

UNESDA has set a series of ambitions to make its plastic packaging more sustainable:

  • 100% of our plastic packaging will be recyclable by 2025
  • Our packaging will contain an average minimum of 25% recycled content in the next five years.
  • We will increase and optimise collection rates
  • Working with partners we reuse packaging where possible


We have an obligation to behave responsibly in the sales and marketing of our products and UNESDA members are committed to supporting Europeans lead healthy and active lifestyles. We have made significant investments in reformulation and new product development to reduce sugar and calories. No and low calorie products representover 40% of soft drinks sales in several markets.

We made significant reductions in sugar and calories from 2000-2015 and are on track to meet our commitment to reduce sugar by a further 10% by 2020:  a mid-term evaluation confirms an 11.9% reduction from 2015-2017.

We support a more ambitious, proactive, comprehensive, coordinated and inclusive EU nutrition and health policy, based on sound science and call on policymakers to:

  • Maintain momentum and create opportunities to generate critical mass in driving sugar and calorie reduction;
  • Address regulatory hurdles that limit opportunities for innovation and sugar reduction – including reviewing the stipulation that low-calorie sweeteners can only be used in foodstuffs delivering a minimum 30% calorie reduction;
  • Place specific emphasis on self-regulatory initiatives towards children;
  • Ensure that initiatives are taken in partnership with all actors – including industry, educators and civil society;
  • Set regulatory policy based on facts, not perception.

The soft drinks sector is the only EU sector that has responded to the EU call for a 10% added sugar reduction by 2020. We have also used self-regulation to deliver responsible behaviour towards children in schools and in our marketing:

  • We removed all soft drinks for sale in EU primary schools in 2006. In 2017 we removed all sugar sweetened beverages from EU secondary schools.
  • UNESDA members have not advertised to children under 12 since 2006. Not on TV, radio, in print, or online. Seven years ago, this was also extended to cover social media.


The European soft drinks industry is rooted in the European economy.  It creates value throughout its supply chain from the agricultural sector that provides it with fruit and sugar, the packaging sector which bottles and cans its drinks, through to the creative sectors which promote its products and the supermarkets and bars that sell them.

A local industry, we are a part of the communities in which we operate and produce products close to the markets we serve.

We call on policymakers to:

  • Focus on driving the competitiveness of European industry;
  • Ensure a clear, strong, single market is at the heart of EU policy, and resist policies that create fragmentation;
  • Support fair, non-discriminatory and predictable fiscal policies as there is no supporting evidence that taxation singling out specific food and drink products has a positive health impact.
  • Uphold the principles of Better Regulation and:
    • Step up efforts to ensure that Member State implementation of EU food legislation is as uniform as possible and that administrative burdens for food and drink companies, especially SMEs, continue to be reduced;
    • Review progress of the REFIT platform which collected suggestions and recommendations on how to simplify laws in relation to food. This is particularly important for multiple source substances;

Facilitate the uptake of innovation by adapting legislation to stakeholder needs and hence building trust among consumers.

The sector creates value throughout its €185 billion value chain and generates revenue 2.5 times greater than it receives itself. We support over 1.7 million jobs throughout our value chain and every job in the soft drinks sector supports a further nine jobs in associated industries.

Learn more at unesda.eu.

Subscribe to our newsletters