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Why the Soda Industry Is the Big Tobacco of Our Times

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The following is an blending mention from the new book Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning). Copyright © 2015 by Marion Nestle and published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Available for squeeze from Amazon and IndieBound:

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper Snapple are collectively Big Soda. The attention as a whole, however, is a large craving involving thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of people intent in production libation syrups or concentrates; in bottling, canning, preparing, or distributing finished products; and in selling soda cans, bottles, or fountain drinks to consumers everywhere in the world. Soda companies furnish and sell the homogeneous of scarcely two trillion 12-ounce servings of fountain or finished beverages every year.

In doing so, the companies intent in this attention perform one or some-more of 4 graphic tasks: producing syrup, bottling or canning the drinks, distributing the syrup or drinks, or selling the drinks, bottles, or cans. Table 7.1 summarizes the supply sequence for carbonated sodas.


Nearly 4,900 companies via the universe are intent in producing syrups or bottling sodas, and 1,350 of them are in the United States. Until recently, these companies could be divided orderly into two categories: those making syrup and season concentrates for finished sodas or fountain drinks, and those intent in bottling or canning the finished products. Coca-Cola, for example, was mostly a syrup producer; it left the bottling almost wholly to authorization companies located everywhere sodas are sold. In 2009, however, PepsiCo bought out its North American bottlers, and Coca-Cola did the same the following year. In other regions, some bottlers continue to be apart companies. But producing the syrup controls the enterprise; every company serve down the supply sequence depends on getting syrup from the manufacturer.

Most finished soothing drinks are sole directly to retailers. Nearly half of all U.S. sales are to supermarket bondage and retailers such as Walmart and Target. The next-largest placement channel is food service, which accounts for one-fifth of sales. McDonald’s, for example, is such an critical patron that Coca-Cola has a special multiplication for it. Then come preference stores, drugstores, gas stations, and other such outlets, which collectively comment for some-more than 10 percent of sales. Vending machines bring another 10 percent.

Even this brief outline demonstrates that the soda business involves many companies with a vested seductiveness in its success. The stakeholders in the soda business embody the soda companies themselves, of course, but also those that supply sugar and other tender ingredients, make syrup, furnish CO dioxide, fashion the cans and bottles, can and bottle the products, make dispensers and vending machines, broach ingredients, and supply and service the factories, dispensers, and vending machines. Sodas help support the restaurants, preference stores, grocery stores, sports facilities, and film theaters that sell drinks to customers, as good as the promotion agencies employed to marketplace the products and the media venues in which advertisements appear. A clearly gigantic series of individuals, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, health and environmental groups, and business associations advantage from soda company philanthropy, partnerships, and marketing. Because all of these entities count on sodas for their livelihoods or function, they consecrate an scarcely wide-ranging support complement for Big Soda. Indeed, one of Coca-Cola’s running manners is to safeguard that everybody who touches its products along the way to the consumer should make income doing so. This is a business strategy guaranteed to safeguard low and durability devotion.


Although the two largest producers—and now bottlers—of sodas are American companies, this attention is decidedly global. In 2012, worldwide sales of all kinds of beverages (including bottled water) generated revenues variably estimated at from $200 billion to $800 billion, depending on the operation of libation products enclosed in the analysis.

To see where general sales of sugar-sweetened beverages fit into this extended context, Table 7.2 lists the percent of sum income generated by several categories of drinks.

Except for bottled water and diet cola, all else on this list comes with combined sugars. Together, sweetened drinks comment for 65 percent of worldwide sales of all beverages. According to one of the investigate firms tracking such things, the world’s 3 largest soothing splash companies—Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola FEMSA (the Latin American partner)—generated $93 billion in sales in 2012, as shown in Table 7.3. This attention is famously profitable. These 3 companies averaged boost of 19 percent that year, but boost are now disappearing rather along with soda sales.

The general soothing splash industry, according to business analysts, is tolerably consolidated, mature (in the business sense), and rarely globalized. Despite the prevalence of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, the remaining half of the global marketplace is shared among large tiny brands and private labels sole by supermarket bondage such as Walmart in the United States and Sainsbury in the United Kingdom, or, in building countries, in niche markets catering to internal tastes. Consolidation is approaching to boost as incomparable companies buy up the some-more successful smaller ones.

Reflecting the majority of this industry, the series of companies concerned in the business has been disappearing for years, and serve declines are expected. Whereas sales of bottled waters, sports drinks, and appetite drinks are augmenting in industrialized countries, sales of sodas are falling. To recompense for this loss, soda companies are increasingly selling to building universe economies. Although the United States, Canada, and Mexico together furnish some-more than one-third of the world’s soothing drinks, and European countries furnish almost another third, the remaining third is shared among a good many other countries in which opportunities for sales enlargement seem unlimited.

The United States may be the largest marketplace for soothing drinks, but other heading markets—notably those of China, Brazil, and Mexico—are middle-income countries. The soda attention expects future expansion to get from sales in those 3 countries as good as in India, Asia, and via Africa.


In the United States, many of the companies intent in libation production go to the attention trade group, the American Beverage Association (ABA). This association’s role, among others, is to promote the value of its member companies to the U.S. economy. The soda industry, it says, “has a approach mercantile impact of $141.22 billion, provides some-more than 233,000 jobs, and helps to support hundreds of thousands some-more that depend, in part, on libation sales for their livelihoods.” Moreover, says the ABA, the companies and their employees compensate some-more than $14 billion in state taxes and scarcely $23 billion in sovereign business and income taxes, and minister hundreds of millions of dollars to free causes. Although the ABA does not contend so directly, its indicate is that any open health campaign to revoke soda intake will cost jobs and mistreat the economy. You may remember that cigarette companies set the customary for use of such arguments. But in compelling the value of their industries to the economy, conjunction considers the mercantile or personal costs of the diseases their products may cause.

This has been an blending mention from the new book Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning). Copyright © 2015 by Marion Nestle and published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Available for squeeze from Amazon and IndieBound.

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003. She is also Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of Food Politics; Safe Food; What to Eat; Pet Food Politics; and Soda Politics. Her website is www.foodpolitics.com.

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