New York City, which has over the last few years become the center of public health policy (they were the first to ban added trans fat and to start labeling menus with calorie and fat content), is proposing a ban on giant sodas.
Public health officials emphasize that consuming large quantities of sugary beverages contributes significantly to obesity, and that large cups contribute to higher consumption. This is correct. The beverage industry is carrying on like it’s the end of freedom and capitalism as we know it, as the purveyors of foods with added trans fat and higher calories carried on before them as they faced public health legislation.
Regulating public health can impact the ability to turn a profit, but only if businesses refuse to change their business model.
Starbucks, for example, faced new menu regulations last year requiring them to disclose the calorie and fat content of each bakery product in their prominently displayed cases. The bakery case entices while the beverage-seeker awaits, but a blueberry scone becomes a harder sale with a tag warning the consumer that it’s a 460 calorie indulgence.
Their solution? The words mini and petite. Little doughnut, fewer calories. Little scone, fewer calories. They also introduced oatmeal with optional toppings, and released a pamphlet highlighting the food offerings under 350 calories.
It seems to be going all right: in June, Starbucks acquired LaBoulange Bakery to continue to increase its bakery offerings while keeping a bigger piece of the pie, so to speak.
Sugary drink aficionados, just know that when you fill up the cup, you are likely to drink what is inside rather than water, whether the cup is 8 oz. or 64 oz. Cutting back here is an excellent way to lose weight, it’s true. Cutting back on your insulin spikes is an excellent way to prevent diabetes and heart disease as well.
But if you’re worried about losing your freedom, you can rest easy knowing that 7-Eleven will still be allowed to sell its 1.3 L Big Gulp (Double Gulp?) because grocery and convenience stores are exempt from the ban. You can also buy two sodas at the restaurant if you insist, but judging by the amount of money soda makers are using to fight this, you probably won’t.
If the ban passes, you should look for some changes. Beverage makers will come up with healthier solutions, perhaps sold in bottles on the side. The American capitalist spirit never dies, it merely reinvents itself to better suit the needs of its consumers.