Dutch beer makers oppose soda tax on 0% beer

Alcohol-free beers Photo: Dutch News

The Dutch brewers’ association has come out against a 3% tax on sugary beverages because it also applies to non-alcoholic beers.

In an interview with NU.nl, former minister Fred Teeven, now the chair of trade organisation Vereniging Nederlandse Brouwers, complained that beer makers had been trying for years to produce low and no-alcohol beers to reduce alcohol consumption but were now being punished.

‘Initially, it was important that people drank less alcohol, now it’s sugar. It’s always something,’ Teeven said.

The government agreed as part of the coalition accord to increase the tax on sugared drinks, arguing the beverages are unhealthy.

The soft drinks tax, introduced in the Netherlands more than 50 years ago, is currently at around 3 cents per can and will go up to nearly 7 cents. It applies to sodas, but also fruit juice, lemonade and mineral water, even though water contains no sugar.

[The tax] ‘was not conceived with the health of citizens in mind, but to collect revenue for the treasury,’ Toon Zom, a former policy officer at the Ministry of Finance, told television programme Pointer earlier this year.

Non-alcoholic beer sales have been booming for Dutch brewers in recent years. Consumption has increased 500% since 2010, according to the brewers association. ‘About one in 15 beers that are drunk are now alcohol-free,’ Teeven said.

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