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Are the British a nation of healthy drinkers?

Are the British a nation of healthy drinkers?

Are the British a nation of healthy drinkers? - the question posed when The Tea Council published The Healthy Drinks Report.

The Report is the first ever national consumer survey looking at what the British are drinking; establishing why we drink what we do and what influences our choice of drinks. Through the creation of the Healthy Drinks Project, The Tea Council has been able to survey Britain's drinking habits. The Survey sample for this specific report comprises more than 6,000 people from all walks of life.

Until now, no one has taken any real interest in the importance of fluid intake, despite the fact that its health role is so vital, if not more so than solid food. In the context of this vacuum, since tea is the national drink in the U.K., it is logical for it to take a leading role in considering the nation's drinking habits and so establish itself as a responsible authority in this vital health area.

The public responded to a detailed self-completion questionnaire, prepared in conjunction with Vincent Marks, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Surrey, convering all aspects of drinking behavior including, importantly, perceptions about what drinks are considered healthy and emerging trends.

Main Findings

Tea was cited as the most popular drink. More than eight in ten respondents said they drank it - averaging 28.9 cups per week - thus confirming its dominant position. Three out of five respondents alter their drinking habits at the weekend. Most significantly, 60 percent drink more alcohol and 40 percent drink more tea.

Tea was chosen as the drink which is most "calming" and "refreshing," as well as being the top-rated "pick-me-up." Tap water was cited as the most "thirst-quenching."

Tea was considered the most popular drink to be drunk at any time during the day; fruit juice was the popular morning choice, with mineral water and alcohol taking the evening spot.

Men are more likely to add sugar to hot drinks and women are more likely to add artificial sweeteners. Of the third of the sample who chose to sweeten hot drinks, more tended to add sweetener to coffee than to tea.

Respondents were asked what they drank less of today than five years ago. Included in this category are: full-fat milk, fizzy drinks, cocktails, beer, fruit squash, spirits, hot chocolate, and coffee. From which it can be deduced that tea is certainly holding its own in the highly competitive drinks market.

Drinks that are being consumed more nowadays include: skimmed and semi-skimmed milk, mineral water, low-calorie fizzy drinks, decaffeinated and diet hot drinks, fruit juice, and low-calorie fruit squash. Again, tea is easily identifiable by its absence.


Despite tea's uniquely healthy profile, when it came to questions involving the health perception of drinks, tea did not figure strongly. Choosing a healthy drink can apparently be a confusing process; complicated not only by the lack of understanding amongst the British of what is good for you, but also by inadequate product labelling in the drinks area. Even if people do have a fairly good perception of what is healthy, this does not necessarily translate into behavior patterns, as people are influenced by other factors, such as availability, time of day and social attitudes of friends and family.

In a series of group discussions conducted to develop the survey's findings further, consumers were asked to position certain drinks on a grid based on two axes - trendy or old-fashioned; good for you or not good for you. Tea was perceived as a neutral drink, neither good nor bad for one and neither trendy nor old-fashioned, explaining to some degree why it holds its position as the U.K.'s most popular drink.

Not Aware

The Report showed that one in every four respondents was not drinking enough fluid, which suggests that people are simply not aware of the importance of fluid intake for optimum health.

This is a cause for concern if one considers that those completing the Healthy Drinks Project questionnaire are likely to be more health-conscious than the British public at large. The Report therefore concludes that fluid intake is evidently an area where greater public awareness is needed.

Perhaps one of the reasons why we do not focus enough on the issue of fluid intake is that whereas the effects of over- or under-eating manifest themselves very clearly, it is far more difficult to tell when a person is not drinking enough, as the effects are largely unseen.


The dangers, however, are real: for kidneys to function normally, we need to maintain sufficient fluid intake. As fluid intake increases, so urine volume increases and is more dilute. The more dilute the urine passed, the better, as highly concentrated urine can lead to problems such as kidney stones and cystitis.

On average, the minimum amount of fluid each person needs per day to function healthily is 1.75 liters (three pints). This is taken partly from food and the body's metabolic process, but mainly from the fluids we drink. The minimum amount we should drink each day is one liter. However, this amount is a very rough yardstick and depends very much on an individual's height, weight and age. Environment and the amount of exercise taken daily also have a major impact on levels of intake needed.

The Report highlights those factors succinctly. Those respondents drinking too little fluid were more likely to be men - not necessarily because they are not taking in the fluid but because they are not drinking the right type of fluid; it draws attention to the diurectic effect of alcohol - explaining, for example, that even beer drinkers should balance their fluid intake by drinking additional non-alcoholic fluids.

From this report it can clearly be seen that respondents aged between 15-24 years were an important group who tended not to drink enough. Many of these, being at the figure-conscious age, were not drinking enough for cosmetic reasons. Underweight people and those who considered themselves to be very unfit were also shown to be people who did not drink enough for optimum fitness.

People living and working in air-conditioned and centrally-heated environments are also less likely to drink enough. Probably because their body temperatures remain relatively constant, they feel "comfortable" and not necessarily thirsty, but do not realize that their bodies are losing fluid through breathing and through the pores of their skin. To counteract the dehydratory effect of such environments, people should increase their fluid intake.


The conclusions that the Healthy Drinks Report draw from the cumulative data are that many people in Britain are not "drinking healthily."

At the press conference held to launch the Healthy Drinks Report, consulting nutritionist, Dr. Juliet Gray, explained that where health is concerned, trends indicate that people seem to be opting for the least objectionable alternative. Because people are unaware of the positive benefits a drink may contain, it appears that "healthy" drinks are chosen more for what they do not contain, rather than as a positive choice for health enhancement. Professor Vincent Marks summed up for the media saying that, viewed overall, concern for health prompts us to choose a drink which will reduce our guilt, and that choice can often be wrong for a particular individual.

The case for tea is at once highlighted by the Healthy Drinks Report. Tea's neutrality gives it every advantage. Add to this that tea is natural and free from preservatives, artificial coloring, calories (unless taken with milk and sugar) and provides an extremely pleasant method of drinking tap water. Tea is one of the most natural and healthy drinks available on today's market.


Future plans for the Healthy Drinks Project includes the continuation of questionnaire distribution and a regular update of the Report to assess whether the British as a nation are becoming better educated on fluid intake as time progresses.

As a result of the Report, The Tea Council is seen as an authoritative source of information on the subject of healthy drinking, producing a very positive halo effect for tea.

Coffee prices reduced

for African producers

Central African Republic: The President announced in mid-October that the farmer would henceforth sell a kg of unhulled coffee at CFA110 instead of CFA190. Since 1987, with the fall in world prices CAR farmers, having lost confidence, stocked their coffee and refused to sell. Ethiopia: The government's late-October announcement of reforms in its coffee pricing policy is expected to more than double the income of farmers, who have been hit by a sharp drop in world prices. It is also expected to assist negotiations with the World Bank over financing a national coffee development scheme currently under appraisal.

Under the new policy, coffee producers will be paid EB39 ($19) a 17-kilo bag, against EF17 ($8) a bag - an increase of 130 percent. This would bring the income of growers to the level of six years ago.

According to Coffee and Tea Development Minister, Tekola Dejene, the policy calls for a reduction in producer taxes and a direct government subsidy to individual growers and co-operatives. This will cost the government a total EB95m ($46m) in the current crop year. Kenya: Kenya's coffee industry is to benefit from a Sh2bn project to be implemented soon to boost coffee production.

The project will also raise coffee growers incomes, increase job opportunities and expand foreign exchange earnings.

The US$106.8m (about Ksh2.35bn) project will be part-financed by the International Development Association (IDA). Uganda: Coffee exports were a record 186,700 tons in the season ended September 30th. However, a sharp drop in prices drastically reduced earnings, general manager of the state-controlled Coffee Marketing Board (CMB) Ernest Kakwano said.

In 1988, coffee deliveries were 160,000 tons, of which 144,000 went to official International Coffee Organizations (ICO) markets. The rest went to markets outside ICO control, mainly under barter arrangements. Coffee accounted for 80.2 percent of barter deals in fiscal 1988/89.

Exports have continued to lag behind the 1972 peak of 214,000 tons. Volumes have risen steadily in the 80's, but this trend has been matched by a slide in their value.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Author:Lewis, Illtyd L.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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