More Addictive Than Cocaine

Sugar has become vilified in the food and drink industry. The government’s sugar tax has had a profound effect on many brands, with ‘low sugar’ and ‘sugar free’ alternatives now available to overcome our ‘addiction to sugar’.

Our guest speaker for this month’s HoneyBuzz was Dr Shameem Kazmi, Director of Research and Development and Technical Implementation for Britvic PLC. He explored the science behind the human palate and how we must ‘feed our brains’ to reduce our perceived need for sugar.

Here are our top 10 insights from an evening of incredible food, wine and conversation with senior industry professionals:


Some markets have a sweeter tooth than others.

In many countries, consumers reject the use of sweeteners. How can we reduce sugar when there is no replacement that is acceptable to consumers?


The sugar tax cost Britvic £70m.

The government’s sugar tax wiped £70m off Britvic’s bottom line. Here’s how they reformulated hundreds of SKUs and removed over three billion calories from their category.


‘Natural’ is a matter of perception.

As we move towards clean label, what do we mean by a natural product? Stevia is extracted from plants rather than made in a lab, but it’s not environmentally sustainable.


How to manage an ingredient that causes disease.

It causes everything from liver disease to tooth decay and obesity. How do food and drinks brands plan ahead and innovate away from harmful ingredients?


What makes sugar more addictive than cocaine?

Dopamine is released that creates a ‘reward circuit’ associated with addictive behaviour. There’s a strong correlation between brain activity, but how do we break the cycle?


The gustatory cortex could hold the answer.

This is the part of the brain responsible for taste. Britvic are conducting the world’s first research into how we can change the information sent between the tongue and the brain.


Searching for an ingredient that doesn’t exist.

Why the alternative to sugar must have zero taste, be as cheap as sugar, with no associated health issues and have a totally different relationship with our brains.


Who should lead: ingredients companies or brands?

We’re entering an era where drinks brands are innovating their own ingredients. Britvic is leading a project to invent something that has never been done before.


Sugar was once a noble ingredient.

The media has changed our perception of sugar over the years. How did it go from something used to enhance the taste of food to being an ingredient to avoid?


The future must be ‘packaged’.

By 2025, Britvic aims to turn all their plastics into pure resin through chemical recycling. What are the problems associated with packaging innovation, and what does the packaging of the future look like?

Want to attend the next event?

HoneyBuzz dinners are an opportunity to generate lively debate between industry leaders championing change and innovation in their work. These talks encourage discussion of breaking topics in business, highlighting ways that companies can learn for new innovation. We limit spaces to 20 people for a truly exclusive experience.

To reserve your place, please email