Wide variation in sugar content of UK cakes and biscuits, says study

Posted: 30 July 2018 | | No comments yet

Many manufacturers have failed to reformulate and reduce the sugar content of their products, with some businesses increasing the overall level of sugar.


A new study has investigated the vast variation of sugar and calorie content of cakes and biscuits within the same category.

A team of researchers at the Queen Mary University of London found that 97 per cent of cakes and 74 per cent of biscuits received a ‘red’ label for sugar (>22.5g per 100g).

Data in a report published by Public Health England showed that many cake and biscuit manufacturers have failed to reformulate and reduce the sugar content of their products. In contrast, many businesses are increasing the level of sugar in their products overall, examples being Tesco by 3.7 per cent, Fox’s Biscuits by 1.3 per cent, McVities by 1.3 per cent and Mondelez by 1.0 per cent.

Some companies did show a reduction in sugar content, Asda and Waitrose through cake production, and General Mills and the Co-operative through biscuit production.


The study showed that on average, a cake had 36.6g of sugar per 100g, however there were large variations between different types of cake.

Battenberg had the highest amount of sugar at 56.4g/100g, with blueberry muffins containing the lowest amount of sugar, 24.6g/100g. There were also large variations between the same type of cake, with Victoria sponge cakes ranging from 23.4g to 59.2g/100g.

These difference show that reformulations can be achieved easily, and with consumers eating up to 6 teaspoons of sugar more per slice of Victoria sponge, it is a necessary change.

The study also found a large variation in the calorie content of different cakes, with plain sponge and chocolate having the highest calories, 446kcal per 100g, and Genoa cakes having the least 356kcal per 100g.

Branded cakes had higher sugar content than own brands.


The average sugar content in biscuits was 30.0g per 100g. The same applied to biscuits where variation between the same type of biscuit was vast.

Iced biscuits contain the most amount of sugar at 43.5g per 100g, and shortbread had the least at 17.5g per 100g.

The average calorie content of 100g of biscuit was 484 kcal. The Fox’s range of biscuits had the highest level of calorie content.

The study showed that reductions in levels of sugar and calories can happen, as shown by the large variations in the contents of the same or similar cakes and biscuits.

This overall reduction can help the current obesity crisis, and other areas of concern such as tooth decay.

The Governments sugar reduction programme began in 2016, where food and drink companies were asked to reduce sugar content in products by 2020. This could be done in various ways; by reducing portion size, reformulating their products (without increasing calorie levels), or promoting low sugar options for the consumer.

The study was published by the BMJ Open.

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