When the New York City’s Board of Health approved Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on any sugar-sweetened drink that is sold in a cup larger than 16 ounces on September 13, 2012, I brought this news into my college marketing course that same afternoon.
To clarify the situation, we examined the history of the NYC anti-obesity commercials including:
- The one of the man eating sugar to represent the 16 packets of sugar that every twenty ounces of soda represents.
- The man eating fat to represent the ten pounds over one year that one can gain by drinking one sugar-sweet drink a day.
- And the man walking off the pounds to represent the three miles needed to walk off twenty ounces of soda.
But besides the messages, what will this ordnance mean for consumers? For retailers? For manufacturers?
For one thing, it will probably add to a lot of confusion as limits will not impact grocery stores (the Big Gulp at 7-Eleven is safe), or any beverage with 70 percent + fruit juice or those with 50 percent + milk.
It could increase the potential for additional purchases since 16 ounces times two equals the supersized thirty-two-ounce drink.
It could require restaurants, fast food operations, delis, etc. to change their cup/container inventory and process.
It could create a continued debate about consumers’ personal decisions and freedoms vs. fighting obesity.
“What would you do now?” I ask the future marketers around me.
- Continue the messages about choice vs. government limits. – says one.
- Sponsor alternate diet brands and spend more of the promotional budget for these brands in local media (such as Diet Coke and Coke Zero vs. Coca Cola for example.) – says another.
And wait to see what legal options can be invoked before the program goes into effect in March 2013. New Yorkers for Beverage Choices has been leading the opposition since the ban was proposed --so expect to see/hear more advertising from them too.
It’s not over yet, but no matter how this legislation ends up, don’t be surprised if other cities begin to copy it for their constituents as well.
In short, it reminds me of that line, from another kind of beverage company:
“Stay thirsty, my friends.” But not for too long.