Corporate giant Coca-Cola is hoping to set up a meeting with new Health Minister David Clark following talk of a potential looming sugar tax.

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned that the food and drinks industry needed to cut down on sugar and salt in products - saying "all options are on the table", including a sugary drinks tax.

Coca-Cola Oceania general manager Sandhya Pillay wants to discuss with Labour's health minister Coke's future and its commitment to reducing the sugar content in its beverages.

"While some people advocate for taxes on sugar, we believe the best approach to help reduce obesity is to provide people with choice and information, rather than increase taxes on families and individuals," Pillay said.


"We are confident we can do more to encourage Kiwis to make informed decisions about their sugar intake and look forward to having this dialogue."

Coca-Cola has been using stevia - a natural sweetener - to replace the sugar content in its drinks, and earlier this year launched its Coke No Sugar range containing Ace' K and aspartame.

The company spent five years developing the Coke No Sugar recipe which it claims tastes almost identical to Coke classic.

Coca-Cola had been working hard to promote smaller pack sizes, and provide consumers with more information, Pillay said.

"In response to Kiwis wanting more low and no sugar options, we've accelerated our efforts to rethink our recipes to reduce sugar in existing drinks."

Coca-Cola's first no sugar drink, Diet Coke, was launched 35 years ago, followed by Coke Zero in 2006 and Coca-Cola No Sugar in June this year.

One third of its sales are in the low or no sugar varieties, up 12 per cent.

Olly Munro, president of the New Zealand Beverage Council (NZBC), said the council welcomed initiatives to reduce obesity but didn't think a sugary drinks tax would combat the problem.


"We welcome working with the Government, NGO's, and public health bodies on initiatives that achieve genuine results but it is well proven that discriminatory and regressive taxes do not lead to positive public health outcomes and instead increase family grocery bills and undermine local manufacturers' ability to remain competitive in an increasingly globalised marketplace," Munro said.

"Our members adhere to voluntarily guidelines to market and sell products responsibly, including a policy of only selling water to primary and intermediate schools, and display clear front-of-pack energy/kilojoules labelling."

New Zealand Dental Association spokesman Rob Beaglehole said a sugary drink icon showing the number of teaspoons of sugar in each drink would be better to inform consumers.

"There's a lot of talk from Coca-Cola about choice and information, yet we've seen the educational approach fail as diabetes rates and tooth decay are major issues in New Zealand," Beaglehole said. "The New Zealand Beverage Council makes noises about wanting to work with government and public health, yet they also oppose initiatives, we as health professionals believe would be effective.

"The Beverage Council's voluntary guidelines around some schools are a farce, given how widely available the products are, as are claims that the energy labelling on packs are clear, when it's really confusing."

Soft drink consumption in New Zealand is on the decline, down 4.2 per cent from 2010. Bottled water remains the highest purchased drink in the market.


Low and no calorie beverage sales have grown by 66.7 per cent in the past 10 years.