I attended a meeting the other day at which the refreshment supplier had failed to provide any diet sodas. Most attendees recoiled at the full-calorie offerings and swigged water instead. One maverick who cracked open a regular Pepsi might as well have lit up a Marlboro right in the conference room, for all of the prissy and pained looks the renegade act generated in a roomful of middle-aged carb counters.
No question about it, soft drinks are getting the same treatment cigarettes got a couple of decades ago, and the soda-pop stigma is creeping throughout modern American life. We’ve all heard about New York City’s ban on the size of soft drinks served in restaurants, while a recent National Institutes of Health report links diet soda consumption and depression. Last fall, Harvard University published a report in the New England Journal of Medicine stating that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, or SSBs as they are known, may actually increase the genetic tendency toward obesity and increased body-mass index. Here’s the Harvard fact sheet on the study, which includes historical statistics about soft-drink consumption trends and information about the sugary beverages’ links to diabetes, heart disease and even gout.
And now, in an interesting “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” marketing move, The Coca-Cola company is out with a new ad campaign that urges mindful consumption and calorie counting. It’s being criticized as damage control but I think it’s a predictable move; an iconic American brand that allies itself with Santa, polar bears and more than a century of life-affirming slogans is unlikely to sit around and let itself be demonized while hollering “bring on more high-fructose corn syrup!” And with soft drinks once again making headlines, now might be a good opportunity to take a look at the ripple effect of soda pop on your region’s business scene. Some angles include:
Manufacturing/bottling. Here’s a report (admittedly somewhat adversarial) about the soft-drink industry from an anti-obesity group; it provides a lot of interesting industry background including how the two main components — flavored syrup manufacturing and bottling/distribution — work. And here’s an interesting graphic about the structure of the industry. This blog from the American Beverage Association also leads to some good background material, and you can even track down local players via searches on jobs sites and the industry news site Bev.Net.
Artisanal sodas. Supermarket shelves seemed jammed with regional and local soda pops. I couldn’t find a directory but examine the packaging at local stores for leads to nearby makers. And don’t forget about suppliers; here’s an intriguing article from the Glass Packaging Institute site about the demand for glass bottles by specialty soda makers.