retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports on a decision by the University of California, San Francisco, to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from the campus - from every "store, food truck and vending machine" at the college, including from fast food restaurants with outlets there.

UCSF is not operating in a vacuum, and here's how the Times frames the issue:

"The university’s experiment comes at a time of growing battles over policies aimed at curbing soda consumption. On Tuesday, three cities in Northern California and one in Colorado will be voting on whether to tax soft drinks. The cities of Berkeley and Philadelphia have already approved taxes on sugary beverages. One recent study found that the Berkeley tax was working: In low-income areas, sugary drink consumption fell and water consumption rose after the tax went into effect. Last month, the World Health Organization urged countries around the world to impose a tax on sugary drinks, presenting research that showed just a 20 percent increase in soda prices would result in a proportionate reduction in their consumption.

"The beverage industry has been fighting back, spending millions on ad campaigns against the proposed taxes in California and Colorado, which it calls a regressive “grocery tax” that hurts the poor. In September, the industry filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia, calling its soda tax illegal.

"As the fights over soda taxes play out, many hospitals and health organizations have taken matters into their own hands, banning sugary drinks from their own workplaces. Nationwide, at least 30 medical centers have restricted the sale of soda and full-calorie sports drinks, including the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and the University of Michigan Health System.

"U.C.S.F.’s policy may be the most far-reaching. It applies not only to its medical center, but the entire university, including the aforementioned 24,000 employees and its 8,500 visitors and patients each year. Visitors to the campus now will find only bottled water, diet drinks, unsweetened teas, and in some cases 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar."
KC's View:
It is early days, and it'll be interesting to see how the study plays out. The short term evidence seems to be that people actually are even changing the items they bring from home, and overall consumption seems to be going down.

There seems to be little question, though, that this is an actual trend ... one with which retailers and suppliers who have long done very well with such products will have to contend and adapt.