Soda Makers for Sainthood?
The American Beverage Association has just announced its recommendation that elementary schools no longer sell soda pop in vending machines. “Childhood obesity is a real problem,” ABA president and CEO Susan Neely told the Associated Press. (Here is the A.P. article in USA Today.) “The individual companies [represented by the ABA] have been doing several things to be part of the solution and there was an agreement among all of our leadership that we needed to take another step and take it as an industry.” Instead of carrying Coke, Pepsi, and their many sweetened cousins, school vending machines will now be stocked with lots more bottled water and juice. It’s enough to warm your heart — the thought of a gigantic trade organization deciding to forego sure profits to help slim down the next generation. Or maybe something else is at play. Bottled water is the fastest growing major beverage category, and much of that growth has come at the expense of soda. (Pepsi-Cola makes Aquafina, the No.1 bottled water; Coke makes Dasani, which is closing the gap.) Logic would suggest that water is cheaper to make than soda, and probably cheaper to market as well (especially now, with all the obesity watchdogs talking about the terrors of soda). It may well be the ABA’s decision to pull soda from elementary schools is a perfect one-two punch: a p.r. coup and a savvy shift from a mature, besieged product to a booming one.