by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Soft drinks

Oct 24 2018

The soda industry is having trouble meeting calorie targets

In 2014, the soda industry (American Beverage Industry, Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper) and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation) pledged to reduce calories in its beverages as a means to help with weight control.  The pledge was to reduce calories in sugary drinks by 20% by 2025.

At the moment, achievement of this goal seems unlikely according to a report by the American Beverage Association and the Alliance. 

The overall summary: a 3 (!) calorie per person per day reduction since 2014.

Plotting the data this way makes the change seem significant, but this industry has a long way to go.

Why isn’t it doing better?  The simple answer: sugary drinks sell and are highly profitable.

The report explains the trends:

  • A decline in consumption of carbonated soft drinks, but an increase in consumption of sugary sports drinks, energy drinks, and ready-to-drink teas and coffees.
  • A decline in retail sales of carbonated soft drinks, but an increase in calories from fountain drinks and food service.
  • An increase in sales of smaller-size containers, but also an increase in sales of larger containers.

The report does not give advertising figures.

I’d like to know which products are getting the most marketing dollars.   Want to take a guess?

Sep 19 2018

Soda company pouring rights contracts: exposed!

I first wrote about soda company pouring rights contracts in 2000.  I also discussed these contracts in Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).

These contracts are still a big issue, at least at the college level.

A site called MuckRock has just published an analysis of 38 pouring rights contracts, which it obtained through open-records requests from public universities.

Good for them!  The contracts make riveting reading.

Coke and Pepsi compete for these contracts and it is easy to understand why.  They provide for exclusive sales of the winning company’s products on school campuses.

The companies give the schools money, often in the millions.  In return, the schools are required to promote—heavily—the contracted products.

As MuckRock documents, the contracts demand lots of space and exposure for the products.  They turn colleges and universities into pushers of sugary beverages.  This, at a time when everyone would be healthier avoiding sugary drinks or consuming them in small amounts.

MuckRock posts the contracts so you can read them for yourself.

Is your college not listed?  MuchRock says:

Well, we want to expand our survey to your school, too. Help us out by sending us the name of a public college or university, and we’ll submit a request for its alliance in the Battle of the Colas.

This is great investigative reporting.  When I wrote my 2000 article, I based it on one contract leaked to me by a school food official appalled by this marketing technique.  At the time, Coke and Pepsi were contracting with junior high and elementary schools.  Fortunately, they have stopped doing that and are now concentrating on older kids.

That’s some progress, I guess.

Want to get pouring rights off of your campus?  Good luck with that.  This is a perfect example of money vs. public healh.  Guess which is more likely to win.

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Jan 29 2018

Soft drinks: anything that sells

The soft drink industry is in big trouble.  Sugary drinks aren’t great for health, and sales are down.  But this industry keeps trying.

I’m starting to collect interesting innovations.  Would you believe?

Yum?

Aug 14 2017

Coconut water—fad or superdrink?

I like the way it tastes, but oh the hype about its health benefits.

I haven’t posted anything about industry-funded research for a long time, mainly because I’m working on a book on the topic.  Here’s one asking whether coconut water works as well as Gatorade for rehydration after exercise.

Of course it does.  Both have water.

Study title: Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men.

Authors: Douglas S KalmanSamantha FeldmanDiane R Krieger, and Richard J Bloomer

Results: Regardless of which drink the study subjects were given, they

  • Lost and regained similar amounts of weight
  • Had the same amount of fluid retention
  • Had similar exercise performance
  • Experienced similar levels of bloating and stomach upset

Competing interests: Financial support for this work was provided by VitaCoco® Company (New York, NY). The investigators have no direct or indirect interest in VitaCoco®. RJB has received research funding or has acted as a consultant to nutraceutical and dietary supplement companies.

VitaCoco must want to market its product as a sports drink.  In this instance, neutral (“as good as”) results position this drink as an alternative to Gatorade or its equivalent.

Water works too…

 

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Aug 4 2017

CSPI’s encouraging report on sodas in restaurants

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a new report out,  Sodas on the Menu.

It’s got some good news (we need some).  Restaurants are making progress on cutting back sodas offered with kids’ meals.  

More progress is needed, of course, but on that cheerful thought, have a great August weekend.

Jul 21 2017

Healthy Food America’s resources for advocates

Healthy Food America is relatively new on the food advocacy scene but I am always impressed by the useful resources it produces.

It is my go-to place for information about soda taxes and other ways to reduce sugars and sugary drinks.

It offers, for example:

Useful?  Yes!

May 3 2017

Do sweet drinks have anything to do with dementia? 

Two studies suggest—but most definitely do not prove—that they might.

A press release from Boston University says that daily consumption of either sugary or artificially sweetened drinks affect the brain.

Data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) has shown that people who more frequently consume sugary beverages such as sodas and fruit juices are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volumes and smaller hippocampal volumes–an area of the brain important for memory. Researchers also found that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not consume diet soda.

The American Heart Association sent out its own press release on the stroke and dementia results. 

Framingham study participants who reported drinking one or more artificially sweetened beverage daily compared to less than one a week had almost three times the risk of developing either stroke or dementia.

The data are impressive.  This is the survival curve for dementia (the one for stroke looks much the same). Green = 0 drinks per week.  Red = 6 per week.  Blue = 7 or more per week.

Caveat: These are correlational studies showing an association between sweet drinks and loss of brain function.  They do not demonstrate that sweet drinks cause these problems—these could be due to some other dietary or behavioral factor.

As you might imagine, the studies got as lot of press attention.  One useful analysis comes from Business Insider:

First, both studies were done by some of the same researchers, including the lead scientist, Boston University neurologist Matthew Pase…For the sweet drinks and brain health research, the scientists drew from a large set of observational data taken from thousands of people from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts who were initially recruited beginning back in the 1940s as part of a study designed to learn more about heart disease called the Framingham Heart Study…of all the people in the study, the percentage of those who did go on to develop stroke or dementia was small — about 3% for stroke and about 5% for dementia.

The Guardian asks “Should link between dementia and artificial sweeteners be taken with a pinch of salt?”  It discusses some of the methodological issues, of which there are many.

The bottom line?  While waiting for researchers to sort all this out, water is an excellent choice.

Sugary drinks study

Diet drinks study

 

Apr 20 2017

Berkeley soda tax continues to produce benefits

Evaluation of the effect of the Berkeley soda tax continues.  The latest results, published in PLoS Medicine, say that one year after implementation of the tax,

Prices of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) increased in many, but not all, settings

  • Sugary beverage sales declined by 9.6% in Berkeley stores
  • Untaxed beverages sales increased by 3.5% driven by bottled water (up 15.6%)
  • Average grocery bills did not increase
  • Store revenue did not fall more compared to control cities
  • Post-tax self-reported SSB intake did not change significantly compared to baseline

The evaluation was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies with support from the University of North Carolina’s Population Center and its National grant from the NIH.

The University sent out its own press release.

It also did a short video explaining what the tax is about and its effects.

Michael Jacobson of CSPI says

For Berkeley, Calif., to reduce soda sales by 10 percent—and to raise water sales by 16 percent—is a huge public-health victory.  It shows that the soda tax enacted in Berkeley is working as intended.  And rather than costing the city, the soda tax represents a brand-new revenue stream, which Berkeley is using for important health programs.  We hope voters and policymakers elsewhere in the country will review the findings published in PLoS Medicine and press for soda taxes in their communities.

This study won’t stop Big Soda from claiming that taxes don’t work.  But if soda taxes didn’t make a significant dent in soda consumption, the industry wouldn’t be fighting taxes so hard.

Helena Bottemiller Evich at Politico reports on the response to this study from the American Beverage Association (ABA), which I cannot find online.  The ABA:

pointed out that the reduction in sales of sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley yielded a reduction of only 6.4 calories per person, per day. The study also revealed, the group added, that the tax’s first year produced an increase of about 31 calories per person, per day from untaxed beverages. The study’s authors noted the increase appeared to be largely attributable to increased intake of milk and “other” beverages, like yogurt smoothies and milkshakes.

The ABA also argued that Berkeley — a relatively small city with a high median income that wasn’t a soda-consumption hotbed to begin with — is “a challenging place to determine the true impact of a beverage tax, unlike Philadelphia, where the tax has led to significant job losses and economic hardship for working families.”

“This study does, however, confirm that sales of taxed beverages inside the city declined while sales of those same beverages outside the city increased, which is also what is happening in Philadelphia,” the ABA said.

“America’s beverage companies know we must play a role in improving public health, which is why we are taking aggressive actions to help people reduce the sugar and calories they get from beverages,” the group continued, noting the industry has pledged to cut calories from its products across the board — with a special focus on reducing calorie consumption in a few places that have extremely high rates of obesity, including communities in Los Angeles, the Mississippi Delta and rural Alabama.

The soda tax story continues.  It is not over yet.  Stay tuned.

Here are some reports: