It wasn’t too long ago that cities started paying closer attention to studies connecting soda with America’s obesity epidemic.
New York was one of the first to attempt regulation of no-good-for-you drinks. It lost in court. A proposal in Philadelphia fell short, too. It took the progressive bastion of Berkeley, Calif., to get a soda tax to stick, spurring locals to drink 21 percent less of the stuff. Bay Area neighbors San Francisco and Oakland soon followed, as did Boulder, Colo., and Chicago. When Philadelphia tried again last year, its law passed.
The growing understanding that sugar is bad for you has helped consumers change habits. Sales of full-calorie soda have plummeted, and industry behemoths PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. are rushing to fill their lineups with flavored waters and smaller soda sizes—both sugar-free and traditional. Names such as Coke Zero, Pepsi Zero, Coke Light, and even Coke Life now line the coolers of convenience stores. According to data from Beverage Marketing Corp., 48 percent of nonalcoholic beverages sold in the U.S. these days claim to have “zero calories.”