Remote residents of Urapunga in the Northern Territory have reduced consumption of sugary drinks by 43% in the past year, due to a range of sugar-reduction measures implemented at their local grocery store.
Urapunga Store, operated by the Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation and serviced by Outback Stores, has restricted the size of soft drinks sold, and implemented “Sugar-Free Wednesdays” – a day in which no full-sugar soft drinks are available for purchase.
“We knew the community was drinking too much sugar, so we came up with a plan to start changing that,” said Antonella Pascoe, board member of Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation. “As directors of the store, we felt like we could make a positive change.”
In the first six months, the proportion of sugary drinks sold has fallen by 4.7% which equates to 1,921 litres, or twelve bathtubs less of full-sugar soft drink consumed in the community.
“We know that the community is now drinking less sugar,” says Ms Pascoe. “One of the best things is the way it has made the community think about what they are drinking, even on days when they can buy sugary drinks.
Remote stores tackle sugar consumption
Urapunga joins a growing list of NT communities trying to reduce sugar consumption through strong, community-led decision making, such as Engawala, Santa Teresa and Ali Curung.
“We love to see community leaders taking action to improve health outcomes and are always keen to assist in implementing the measures they choose,” says outback Stores Health and Nutrition Manager Anna Murison.
Since 2012, the proportion of full-sugar drinks has reduced by 34% across stores serviced by Outback Stores. In the same period, the proportion of water sold has increased by 131% and that of sugar-free drinks has increased by 89%.
These healthy outcomes are driven by local store directors wanting to tackle diet-related health problems, in line with Outback Stores’ Healthy Food Policy.
Healthier community and business
Urapunga is situated 600km south-east of Darwin, on the southern edge of Arnhem Land, and is home to around 100 people.
The Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation first approached Outback Stores in 2019, when the store was facing significant challenges due to mismanagement and debt. Today the store is in a much better financial standing, with new fittings and upgrades and a better range of healthy food.
“The shop looks much better,” says James Woods, director of Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation. “There’s lots more food on the shelves, the products are worth buying and the prices are cheaper too.”