East Iceland Startup Makes Beverages Flavored with Locally Foraged Herbs

A start-up in East Iceland is producing nonalcoholic beverages using wild, Icelandic herbs, Austurfrétt reports. The company, Könglar (meaning ‘pine cones’), has been selling its beverages at restaurants throughout East Iceland since earlier this year and aims to be a truly local product. “People are always asking us if it’s possible to get [our drinks] in the [capital area],” says marketing manager Brynjar Darri Sigurðsson. “And we always say, ‘no, you have to come out East.’”

Producer Dagrún Drótt Valgarðsdóttir got the idea for making natural beverages from local, Icelandic ingredients after sampling a blueberry drink made in Finland. “We started to wonder if we could use that method using the nature we have here,” she says.

Könglar received subsidies from the municipality of Fljótsdalshérað, as well as the government’s Food Fund, which aims to “strengthen development and innovation in the production and processing of food and by-products from agricultural and marine products,” with an emphasis “on innovation, sustainability, value creation and the competitiveness of Icelandic food throughout the country.”

Thus far, the company’s beverages, all of which have names inspired by local folk tales, include a lovage drink, a dandelion iced tea, and a rhubarb soda. Dagrún says their focus has been “to use what’s around us as much as possible” instead of opting for imported produce or ingredients that aren’t native to Iceland. So, for instance, if they want the flavor profile of a tart, green apple, they use rhubarb, which is plentiful in East Iceland. In the future, Dagrún says Könglar would like to use their same production and infusion methods to make herbal-flavored beers and wine.

Follow Könglar on Instagram, here.

Minister of Health Accused of Prejudice Against Fat People

Ask Iceland Review - Soft Drinks

Iceland’s Association for Body Respect has accused Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir of encouraging prejudice against fat people in her discussion of the Directorate of Health’s new proposal for a 20% sugar tax on soft drinks and sweets, RÚV reports. The Association believes that an article penned by the Minister about the proposal in Morgunblaðið unnecessarily targeted fat people rather than acknowledging that excessive sugar consumption presents a health concern for people of all sizes.

The Directorate’s new action plan calls for imposing a 20% sugar tax on soft drinks and sweets, which it says is important for the country’s long term goals in public health. Ireland, France, Norway, and Mexico, are just a few of the countries which have taxed soft drinks and other sugary products mostly in an effort to reduce their consumption and improve public health. Iceland did previously implement a sugar tax of 5%, but it was later repealed.

“It has consistently been pointed out that Iceland has a high proportion of fat people and that the consumption of sugary products increases the likeliness of obesity and tooth decay and high consumption of sugary sodas and beverages can additionally increase the likeliness of type 2 diabetes,” Svandís wrote in her op-ed.

“…[W]e want to point out that the imposition of a sugar tax would bring about the improvement of the public health of all Icelanders, not just fat people,” read a statement published on the Association for Body Respect’s Facebook page. “Icelanders of all ages and of all genders, sizes, and shapes consume sugar. An excessive consumption of sugar is not just unhealthy for fat people.”

A sugar tax is the first item in the action plan that was laid out by the Directorate of Health’s working group to reduce the prevalence of obesity.

“Because of the high incidence of fat prejudice and discrimination on the basis of physique, the plan specifically states that ‘When introducing measures, there needs to be an emphasis on the fact that they simultaneously contribute to mental, physical, and social health and well-being,’ continues the Association’s Facebook post. Those implementing the measures were, however, encouraged to avoid increasing ‘…negative perceptions or attitudes in connection to physique.’”

“On the contrary,” reads the action plan, “it is important to promote respect for diverse builds in society, as poor body image and prejudice on the basis of physique can have a negative effect on health-related behavior, health, and well-being. It is, therefore, recommended that the government’s actions revolve around the promotion of healthy lifestyles within a broad social context, without a specific emphasis on obesity or body weight.”

The Association contends, however, that the Minister of Health “went against these recommendations in her discussion about the implementation of a sugar tax.”

Directorate of Health Proposes 20% Sugar Tax

soft drinks

The Directorate’s new action plan calls for imposing a 20% sugar tax on soft drinks and sweets, RÚV reports. Kjartann Hreinn Njálsson, assistant to the Director of Health, says that implementing this tax is important for the country’s long term goals in public health.

Ireland, France, Norway, and Mexico, are just a few of the countries which have taxed soft drinks and other sugary products mostly in an effort to reduce their consumption and improve public health. Iceland also previously implemented a sugar tax of 5% that was eventually repealed.

Higher tax more likely to succeed

“When this was last tried [in Iceland], sweetened soft drinks rose in price by only around ISK 5 per litre, while chocolate lowered in price because the existing taxes that applied before were higher than those applied due to sugar,” states Kjartann. “Now it is suggested that the increase be 20% […] so that consumers feel the increase.” Kjartan says there is evidence that informing consumers and encouraging healthier choices are not enough to decrease sugar consumption. Lowering the price of healthy food products needs to follow as well.

“Given how high the level of sugar consumption is here in the country and what a serious public health issue it is to consume too much sugar, for society as a whole, we believe the sugar tax is very important,” stated Kjartan.

Taxing TVs and running shoes

Several parties have put forth arguments against the sugar tax, questioning its efficacy and pointing to potential negative side effects. Icelandic Federation of Trade Director Ólafur Stephensen has suggested that the tax works against recent efforts which have streamlined food taxation, and would increase overhead costs for businesses. In addition, he points out that research on sugar taxes around the world has shown contradictory results and there are many indications such taxes are ineffective.

The sugar tax is also paternalistic, Ólafur adds. “It’s so incredibly difficult when governments are starting to decide what is healthy and what is unhealthy for us and change the price of things in order to control consumption. If taxes are to be applied to this end then there should be high taxes on TVs and low taxes on running shoes.”

What soft drinks are popular in Iceland? Are there Icelandic soft drink brands?

Ask Iceland Review - Soft Drinks

You will be able to find most international soft drinks in Iceland, like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Red Bull, Sprite, Mountain Dew, 7 Up, Dr Pepper, Burn, and Fanta. Pepsi is one of the most popular drinks, and Icelanders especially like Pepsi Max. Up until 2017, Coca Cola was produced and bottled in Iceland with Icelandic […]

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