As Americans continue to connect the dots between soda consumption and type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other diseases, fewer and fewer Americans are drinking soda. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we choose water over soda, local and state governments are pushing for new taxes and warning labels on fizzy drinks, and Big Soda is generally hunkering in its bunker.
At least in the United States.
Around the world, Big Soda is on the make, spending billions to buy local brands, build up its distribution infrastructure, and seduce new consumers, particularly young people. Coca-Cola alone is investing about $1 billion per year in Brazil, China, India, and Mexico, with other big investments in Southeast Asia and Africa. And Pepsi is trying to play catch-up.
While in the United States the public health community is forming a robust response to soda-related disease by discouraging consumption, most low- and middle-income countries aren't there yet. And Big Soda is offering huge investments to economically fragile countries with total disregard for the public's health in those nations.
If that sounds familiar, it's because the tobacco industry pretty much did the same thing, after the U.S. Surgeon General connected the dots between smoking and lung cancer, and after a master settlement agreement reached in the 1990s. The industry had the brakes put on its marketing in the U.S., and cigarette smoking plummeted to a fraction of what it once was. And Big Tobacco redoubled its marketing in countries without robust tobacco control policies to make up for the profits lost in America.
We at the Center for Science in the Public Interest decided to survey the globe to show how the soda industry is following the dark footsteps of Big Tobacco and finding new markets in the developing world.
Here's some of what we found.