Big soda caves

“Caves” as a verb, not a noun. Though big soda caves (n) would be awesome.

As a way of preempting laws banning sodas in schools, big soda makers have agreed to stop selling non-diet sodas in schools across the country within a few years:

Nearly 35 million students nationwide will be affected by the deal, The Alliance for a Healthier Generation said in a news release. The agreement affects all public schools who have contracts with the distributors.

The deal affects more than just school cafeterias and vending machines. Schools that use distributors to purchase soda for sales at sporting events and fundraisers will be subject to the new restrictions, too, Carson said.

Whole milk is also on the chopping block.

Anti-obesity activists are ecstatic, of course, but it’s not clear that the withdrawal will do any good. Rogier van Bakel sums up two reasons: limiting soda consumption in schools has at best a tiny impact on obesity rates and kids will find ways of consuming what they want anyway.

While coverage of the agreement lauds it as a good thing for children’s health, it doesn’t mention anything about what it may do to school budgets. Exclusive pouring contracts are a lucrative source of funds for extracurricular activities. With soda companies cutting the best-selling options from their product lines, will they still be willing to put cash back into the schools they deal with? I’ll give a free Coke to the first person who finds an athletic activity that gets cut when the pouring contract runs out.

I don’t care whether schools sell sodas or not, but I do believe that individual districts ought to be able to weigh the trade-offs for themselves. Now, thanks to agressive regulation in some places, schools everywhere are going to be deprived of the option.


7 thoughts on “Big soda caves”

  1. “they’ll do it anyway” is a pretty bad reason for whether or not something should be available or not.

  2. Not necessarily, “na.” It’s relevant to know what kind of choice a school is facing. If it determines that by taking soda off the menu it will only encourage students to buy it at the fast food restaurant or convenient store across the street, it might reasonably decide that it’s better to sell soda itself, hold on to the revenue it generates, and keep kids on campus.

  3. Why would pouring contracts be affected? If the Coca Cola Company can’t sell soda to schools, neither can Pepsi, etc. Schools will still sell drinks, they will just sell substitutes; Minute Maid, Diet Coke, Diet Sprite, Coke Zero, Power Aid, Nestea, Fruitopia, or Dasani Water (all products owned by the Coca Cola Company, BTW), it is simply a consumer (gov) driven market shift. In fact it was just such a consumer driven market shift that drove Coca Cola into the sports beverage/water market.

    I think that your argument lies on principle, should schools and activist groups be making decisions for the individual? If they regulate this, what next?

  4. CkP, you’re assuming the drinks are perfect substitutes for each other, which is unlikely. Kids could bring drinks from home, buy them elsewhere, or just go to the water fountain instead of buying drinks they don’t like as much regular soda.

  5. people will steal from other people whether it is legal or not. i prefer that it be illegal. i realize buying coke does not impinge on the rights of other people like stealing does, but it’s the same argument.

    plus, i would doubt a significant drop in sales. the convenience factor (i.e. on site soda) would probably outweigh or at least negate removing bad-for-you drinks.

  6. I am not making the assumption that all Coca-cola products are perfect substitutes, but I am making the assumption that soda demand is not perfectly inelastic. I don’t agree with the assumption that consumers who cannot purchase soda (Coke, Sprite) won’t purchase other drink products by the Coca Cola Company (CCC). Schools will lose a percentage of the consumers who’s demand for Soda is inelastic (which I assume is a small percentage) but soda companies and schools will still be able to profit from pouring contracts just the same. Besides, one of the reasons that CCC invested in producing products like Power Aid and Nestea was because they realized that they were substitutes of soda and that there was a market for these products that they could profit off of.

    Sure there will be students who bring soda from home, or who will purchase soda from local stores, but imagine this scenario;

    You are at your schools homecoming football game, during half-time you and your friends approach the concession stand and purchase hotdogs and chips, you order a can of Coke as well. You are informed that your school cannot sell soda; your options are Power Aid, Nestea, or bottled water . . . are you going to walk away without a drink, are you going to walk to town to purchase a drink, are you going to walk back to the school and find a water fountain? Probably not, you are going to purchase one of the products offered because you are thirsty. Or imagine this, you are staying after school for a chess club meeting, you are thirsty and the cafeteria is closed, you go to the vending machine, again no soda, unless the only liquid that you are willing to drink is soda, you will probably purchase one of the other products which will quench your thirst. Hence, even without soda there is still a lucrative market for other CCC products.

    Does this scenario result in maximum profit? Maybe not, but the idea that Coca Cola or Pepsi can’t profit from pouring contracts even with the soda regulations sounds more like crafty marketing manipulation than sound economics.

    I think that the real issue here is the idea of social and moral responsibility. Whose responsibility is it to regulate food consumption, is it the individual, society, or the government. Some say “it takes a village” others think that it is the responsibility of the individual, others think that the answer lies somewhere in between. I am assuming from your post that you are taking the position that it is the responsibility of the individual. It is a great post Jacob, thought provoking and relevant, but what I am pointing out is that the economic rational behind your position doesn’t apply exactly.

    Is there more (behind your rational)?

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