by Marion Nestle
Jul 24 2012

The Bloomberg soda initiative: soda companies fight back, overtly and covertly

The hearing on Bloomberg’s soda volume limit takes place today.  I’m traveling and sorry to miss it (I filed comments).

I shouldn’t be surprised but I am stunned by the intensity and depth of soda industry pushback on this, most of it going on and on about the virtues of personal choice, as if container size has nothing to do with the amount people eat.  It does (see below).

In addition to what reporters have been reporting, here’s what I’ve seen personally:

  • A phony “grassroots”petition campaign paid for by the soda industry with campaigners paid $30 per hour to collect signatures
  • A mailing to my home asking me to protest
  • Handout cards
  • Subway posters
  • Tee shirts
  • And highly visible ads on trucks.

And then there’s yesterday’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal from Seth Goldman, the “TEA-EO” of Honest Tea:

I challenge the mayor and the New York City Board of Health to seriously consider the impediments that entrepreneurs already face in our efforts to offer lower-calorie drinks. Starting a business and building a challenger brand with modest resources is already a daunting task. The proposed ban would create additional barriers to beverage innovation.

Only one thing wrong with this.  Mr. Goldman must have forgotten to mention that since March 2011, Honest Tea has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Coca-Cola.

Yes, I know the petition has gathered 75,000 signatures or so.  The campaigners and signers should all know better.  See this, for example:


How long did it take for them to come up with the term beverage innovation?

The quote that Mr. Goldman uses in the WSJ article – If we don’t change the direction in which we are headed, we will end up where we are going. – cuts both ways.

Related to soda, we continue to dance around the real solution. The message, plain and simple, needs to be:

Drink water.

Mrs. Obama seems to address it with this magnificent quote: “You wouldn’t think of watering a plant with soda.” How profound. Of course, no one would use soda to nourish a plant. So, why in the world would you put it in your body?

When Steve Jobs was recruiting John Sculley (former CEO of PepsiCo), he made this observation: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water to children, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Come on folks, we can change the world. However, first we must change the message.

These folks seem to know the solution …

Ken Leebow

The story goes on: people have long fought for their right to poison themselves.

For those who pursue their right to be healthy, CopyKat and Ken (comments above) said it succinctly:

Beverage doesn’t need “innovation”… the perfect beverage is an extra-jumbo glass of water!


Allie Chee
Author, New Mother

  • FrankG
  • July 24, 2012
  • 9:50 am

@Graham: so far as I can tell, no-one is saying how much soda you are allowed to drink. No guns involved… just a recognition that at some stage common-sense exists. Do you really think that large serving sizes are necessary?

Your opinion is that “people make themselves fat” — what impact, if any, do you think that having to pause (and perhaps think) before going back for a free refill might have on that?

The scream test, ie the level of opposition, confirms this initiative is right on target. The reason fro the opposition is very well explained (with historical references) in the recent BBC documentary “The men who made us fat” (12 episodes available on YouTube). See the episodes focused on supersizing the portions because that’s very profitable. Having people buy cheaper portions would hurt the profits. As for all the rights to consume “arguments” they are taken from the tobacco industry PR book.

Here is the link to episode 7 of The men who made us fat on YouTube

  • S.L.Greene
  • July 24, 2012
  • 8:56 pm

Ms. Nestle,
I’m a huge fan of yours, & never before have I disagreed with you on anything. But I really think that people who believe this is about fighting obesity (including you, evidently) are totally missing the point. What this is about, in my opinion, is whether a super-rich guy, just because he’s super-rich, is entitled to impose his will on the “little people,” even in their most personal choices that are none of his business. If he were trying to deprive middle-class people of their Starbucks products instead of banning sodas for the working class, we’d be having a completely diffferent conversation.

  • Matt LaPrell
  • July 24, 2012
  • 11:29 pm

If I want to drink a gallon of pop in one sitting, that’s my business.

[...] Read the Article The soda industry isn’t playing nice when it comes to Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban. The hearing will take place today, and here are some of the tactics the ban is up against: A fake “grassroots” petition campaign paid for by the soda industry with campaigners paid $30 an hour to connect signatures, subway posters, t-shirts and a Wall Street Journal op-ed by the CEO of Honest Tea who left out the fact that his company is owned by Coca-Cola. [Food Politics] [...]

The framing of this issue is very interesting. This is not a soda ban but a packaging ban. The success in garnering public support for packagaing a product is indicative of another marketing coup. Since free refills and “buy one, get one free” permeate our commercial world coupled with the high profit margins of soda, there is little worry that the soda industry will be losing any money by limiting cup size while continuing to promote soda consumption through various marketing strategies. The public is finally being alerted to a marketing technique which the industry has known for some time. A decade ago, research was published on the relationship between larger volume of food, increased consumption and unrelated satiety ( noting increased portions in recipe books, larger dishes and supersized marketing. It is the role of business to make profits and use successful marketing techniques to gain customer demand and loyalty. The industry is again successfully employing the psychology of marketing to frame the NY ban on packaging as a personal freedom issue rather than the marketing ploy that it is.

  • Gold, man!
  • August 7, 2012
  • 2:43 pm

Another thing Mr. Goldman failed to address is why he can’t just reformulate his Honest Teas to include a bit less sweetener. Then he could keep the bottle sizes just the way they are.

  • Gold, man!
  • August 13, 2012
  • 3:05 pm

Mr. Goldman also forgot to mention that he sits on the Board of Directors of American Beverage Association with a whole bunch of other White Men (and a couple of White Women.)

Tom L. Bené
PepsiCo Foodservice

Vice Chair
Claude B. Nielsen
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc.

Susan Neely
President and Chief Executive Officer
American Beverage Association

Patricia Magee Vaughan
Senior Vice President, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, General Counsel
American Beverage Association

Ralph D. Crowley Jr.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Polar Beverages

John E. (Jack) Pelo
President and Chief Executive Officer
Swire Coca-Cola, USA

Board of Directors

Albert P. Carey
Chief Executive Officer
PepsiCo Americas Beverages

Steve Cahillane
President and Chief Executive Officer
Coca-Cola Refreshments

Brian Charneski
L & E Bottling Company, Inc.

Rodger L. Collins
President, Packaged Beverages
Dr Pepper Snapple Group

William B. (Billy) Cyr
President and Chief Executive Officer
Sunny Delight Beverages Co.

Matthew Dent
President and Chief Operating Officer
Buffalo Rock Company

J. Alexander M. (Sandy) Douglas Jr.
President, Coca-Cola North America
The Coca-Cola Company

Paul Finney
President and Chief Executive Officer
Pepsi Bottling Ventures

Jerry Fowden
Chief Executive Officer
Cott Corporation

Seth Goldman
President and TeaEO
Honest Tea

Walter (Wally) Gross III
Senior Vice President, On-Premise
G & J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers

J. Frank Harrison III
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated

Jeffrey (Jeff) Honickman
Chief Executive Officer
Pepsi-Cola & National Brand Beverages, Ltd.

Kim E. Jeffery
President and Chief Executive Officer
Nestlé Waters North America Inc.

Jim Johnston
President, Beverage Concentrates and Latin America Beverages
Dr Pepper Snapple Group

George Kalil
Kalil Bottling Co.

Stefan Kozak
Chief Executive Officer
Red Bull North America, Inc.

Lawrence (Larry) J. Lordi
Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England

Scott Miller
Chief Executive Officer
Tampico Beverages, Inc.

J. Andrew Moore
MLF Group

Edwin C. Rice
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper

Cliff Ritchie
President and Chief Executive Officer
Carolina Beverage Corp.

Kirk Tyler
Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Anthony J. Varni
Varni Brothers Corporation

[...] for themselves with a little help from ABA advertising that is. As NYU Professor Marion Nestle points out, the ABA has spared no cost in influencing public opinion against the ban through mailings, [...]

The responsibility is with fat people. They have no control. If you are going to limit what I want to buy, then make fat people get licenses for fizzy drinks and have them carded when they do so. Stop this stupid food fascism.

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