This week, the New York City Board of Health approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to limit the size of sugary soft drinks. Motivated by rising diet-related chronic diseases (along with healthcare costs), the mayor's attempt to rein in out-of-control portion sizes caused quite a media firestorm. Predictably, the soda lobby has come out swinging, complete with an industry front group called, "New Yorkers for Beverage Choices."
A better name would be, "Soda Pushers for Continued Profits."
According to Beverage Digest, fountain sales (versus packaged) make up about 24 percent of the 9.3 billion cases of soda sold each year, or $18 billion in a total market worth $75.7 billion.
Coca-Cola will be especially impacted by cup size limits, as that company controls 70 percent of U.S. fountain sales, followed by Pepsi with 19 percent and Dr Pepper Snapple with 11 percent.
While it's obvious that the soda industry would be on the defense, largely missing from the debate so far has been the role of the fast food and restaurant industry as a significant driver of soft drink sales. (Due to legal constraints, the city's soda proposal would only apply to food service establishments and not retailers.)
The fast food industry has gotten plenty of flak for pushing a diet of cheeseburgers, French fries and other highly processed pseudo-foods, but they should also be recognized as a major purveyor of sugary beverages.