Soft Drink Sales In Berkeley Decline By Over 9 Percent: Here’s Why

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The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention notes that over one-third of U.S. adults suffer from obesity. Americans spend roughly $1,429 more on medical bills and care of obese people, when compared to people with normal weight.

One of the main reasons behind this serious condition is the consumption of soft drinks.

In 2014, in a bid to cut down the sales and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or SSBs, tax on these drinks was introduced in Berkeley, California. This move was the first of its kind in the United States.

At the time, people were apprehensive as to how a tax would cut down soda sales, but apparently the method has been successful in reducing soda sales. Since the tax was levied, the sales of soft drinks in Berkeley has declined by more than 9 percent.

Moreover, a new study reveals that there has been a substantial increase in sales of bottled water.

Berkeley’s Soft Drinks Tax Responsible For SSB Sales Decline?

Health officials in Berkeley were optimistic that increased prices of unhealthy drinks would deter people from purchasing them and, therefore, proposed levying a substantial tax on SSBs. The soda tax proposal received approval in November 2014 and came into effect in the region from Jan. 1 2015.

The tax added one cent per fluid ounce to the soft drink can or bottle. Therefore, according to the tax rules a person has to pay 12 cents extra for a 12-ounce soda can, which was earlier priced at $1.

Similarly, one has to pay an additional 68 cents for a 2-liter soft drink bottle, which was priced just a little over $2 before the tax was levied.

Added costs to SSBs makes them more expensive and may convince a thirsty individual, who is short on cash, to opt for water instead. Moreover, other than diverting people to a healthy lifestyle, the tax also provides the city with added revenue.

The SSB Tax Study In Berkeley

Researchers from the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina and the Public Health Institute teamed up to observe the link between the SSB tax and soda sales, price, consumer spending, and many more factors.

“This study examines the association of the first penny per ounce SSB excise tax in the United States, in Berkeley, California, with beverage prices, sales, store revenue/consumer spending, and usual beverage intake,” shared the researchers.

This is not the first time a study has been conducted in Berkeley to see whether the SSB tax has had any desired effect on the population and its soda drinking habits.

A similar study was conducted in fall 2016 and showed that SSB consumption in Berkeley decreased by 21 percent. The study also revealed that after the SSB tax was imposed, water consumption in Berkeley increased by 63 percent.

The 2016 fall study on Berkeley SSB tax was published in American Journal of Public Health.

SSB Sales Decline In Berkeley

The researchers studied the SSB sales in Berkeley from March 1, 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016. During this period, the researchers observed the prices of soft drinks at 26 stores in Berkeley.

The team also looked into the point-of-sale scanner data of more than 15 million SSB items at two supermarket chains, three stores in Berkeley, and six more stores in the nearby cities. The researchers also conducted a telephonic survey with 957 residents in Berkeley.

After a thorough examination, the researchers found that sales of SSBs in Berkeley declined by 9.6 percent during the study period. On the other hand, the sales of bottled water increased by 15.6 percent during the same time period.

Taking into account the fact that Berkeley already had a low consumption rate of SSBs, the additional decline surprised the researchers.

“I didn’t think we’d get much effect at all,” said Barry Popkins, one of the researchers of the study.

The findings of the study have been published in journal PLOS Medicine, on Tuesday, April 18.

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