The news: The three major beverage companies admitted Tuesday that their signature drinks may be leaving a sour taste in consumer's mouths.
Over the next decade, Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper said they'll reduce the amount of calories of its drinks by 20 percent and "more aggressively" market healthy alternatives, like bottled water and smaller sizes.
What does this mean? Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper are basically conceding that soda is doing terrible, terrible things to your body.
The Washington Post reports that the agreement, reached by the American Beverage Association and Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc., will "promote smaller portions, as well as zero and low-calorie offerings, and provide calorie counts on vending machines, soda fountains and retail coolers." They were quick to pat themselves on the back:
"This is the single largest voluntary effort by an industry to help fight obesity and leverages our companies' greatest strengths in marketing, innovation and distribution," Susan K. Neely, president and chief executive of the American Beverage Association, said in a statement. "This initiative will help transform the beverage landscape in America."
The real reason: It's a concession to regulatory pressure from local governments, notes the Washington Post. Several states and cities have been attempting to cap soda sales for years due to health concerns. A short-lived law in New York City prevented people from buying jumbo-sized drinks, and an Illinois state senator attempted to implement a soda tax in 2014. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine says a soda tax is the "best option" for reducing childhood obesity.
More alarming for Big Soda is a giant decline in sales. Soda consumption has dropped nearly 20% in ten years.
While consumption is down, obesity is still major problem for American youth. We're sure ingredients like these have something to do with that, as Mic's Tom McKay reported in May:
It's no secret that Coca-Cola bottled in the United States contains large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup. Though the jury's out on whether HFCS is more likely to cause obesity and other adverse health concerns, research has suggested it's worse for you than regular sugar.
A team of Princeton researchers demonstrated that rats given access to HFCS for six months became obese and showed signs of metabolic syndrome, while rats given access to regular sucrose did not. The team theorized that the results "may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles."
Other researchers have suggested HFCS and other forms of fructose encourage over-eating compared to other forms of sugar like glucose, thanks to the way it's metabolized. So a diet high in HFCS might be more likely to be one with more overall calories, leading to weight gain.
Additionally, Consumer Reports tested 81 cans and bottles of various popular brands of soft drinks from five manufacturers between April and September 2013. They found that an alarming amount of a potentially carcinogenic chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI, a caramel coloring) present in many products.
We'll see how closely the soda companies follow through with their promises, but with slipping sales and and increasing pushback from state and local governments, it's clear they need a big gulp of reality.