LONDON: In the lead up to the publication of the UK government's childhood obesity strategy, there has been fierce debate about the role of food and drinks brands, but some of them are keen to highlight the positive steps they have taken.

Pressure is mounting, especially after MPs on the influential Health Select Committee recently backed a 20% "sugar tax", which even the prime minister has not ruled out and which was endorsed by the World Health Organisation last week.

What's more, a free sugar-tracking app aimed at parents and launched by Public Health England at just the beginning of the year, is reported to have since clocked up at least one million downloads, including 800,000 in its first ten days.

With such clear evidence of consumers' desire for more information, leading executives from Coca-Cola, Britvic and Innocent smoothies spoke to Marketing Week about what they are doing to address public concerns.

Britvic, the maker of Robinsons cordial and R. White's Lemonade, claims that 60% of its current innovations are low in sugar, or sugar-free, and it launched a campaign in the New Year to encourage people to drink more water – albeit with low-sugar Britvic products.

"People often say water tastes a bit dull, which is why we're trying to encourage the nation to drink more water with Robinsons," said Matt Barwell, Britvic's CMO.

"We did this campaign on a smaller scale in Great Britain and Ireland last year and the results were phenomenal. We've learnt from that and built on it to drive it more fully this year."

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola plans to launch a new version of Coke Life in April that contains a blend of sugar and a high proportion of stevia, a natural sweetener.

A 330ml can will have just 76 calories and 19 grams of sugar, the company claims, and the product will be promoted as part of Coca-Cola's "Taste the Feeling" campaign.

Indeed, Coca-Cola's new marketing strategy of focusing on its low calories products last week won the support of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who addressed the Advertising Association's LEAD event to encourage brands to promote healthy options as "cool".

Bobby Brittain, Coca-Cola GB's marketing director, said "the more than can be done on the national level, the better", although he cautioned that no single "contributor" should be singled out in legislation.

Finally, Helen Pomphrey, the UK head of marketing at Innocent, explained that the smoothie brand has launched a new range of healthy vegetable juices, partly in response to a change in consumer tastes.

"Consumers have been used to a sweet smoothie taste and they are becoming more accepting of something more savoury, but that's something which will develop further over time," she said.

Data sourced from Marketing Week, Marketing Magazine, Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff