One festive hot drink sold by a high street chain has 23 teaspoons of sugar - as much as as four white chocolate and strawberry muffins - a report has revealed.
The study from Action on Sugar found that many high street coffee chains are failing to reduce the sugar in their festive milk and milk-alternative hot drinks – with some hot drinks increasing in sugar since 2016.
The survey, which analysed both the sugar and calorie content of the largest available sizes of hot chocolates and seasonal lattes by popular high street chains, revealed certain seasonal beverages contain almost as much sugar as three cans of Coca-Cola.
Furthermore, all of the largest available size products surveyed would receive a red traffic light for total sugars – with just two exceptions from Pret and Costa.
A total of 124 hot chocolates and 79 seasonal lattes were surveyed across coffee chains Caffe Nero, Starbucks, Costa, KFC, Greggs, McDonalds, EAT, Leon and Pret.
The worst hot chocolate ‘offender’ was a venti Starbucks Signature Caramel Hot Chocolate with whipped cream, using oat milk, with over 23 teaspoons of sugar and 758 calories. The worst sugary seasonal latte was Starbucks Venti Gingerbread Latte with Oat Milk with over 14 teaspoons of sugar and 523 calories per portion. Registered nutritionist, Holly Gabriel, at Action on Sugar, said: “Coffee shops and cafes need to take much greater steps to reduce the levels of sugar and portion sizes, promote lower sugar alternatives and stop pushing indulgent extras at the till.”
Even without the added sugar from syrups, the sugar content of milk alternatives varies greatly. Unsweetened milk alternatives are naturally similar or lower in sugars than cow’s milk and therefore using sugar-sweetened milks and sugary syrups doubles up on sugar content. Starbuck’s Oat Milk Venti Latte has over seven teaspoons of sugar and 350 calories per serving compared to Starbucks Almond latte in the same size which has under three teaspoons of sugar and 121 calories per serving.
Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Action on Sugar, said: “You can always add sugar in, but you can’t take it out. Customers looking for dairy alternatives could be shocked to learn that many coffee shops and cafes use pre-sweetened alternative milks as the nutrition information is often very difficult to find – with information only available on websites or not at all.”
Starbucks did not respond to requests for comments.