Matt Perry, an employee of Express Mart #4, walks through the aisle to restock cans of soda. Photo by Scott Ball.
An employee of Express Mart #4 restocks canned sodas. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Texas beverage companies know they have a role to play in improving public health, and they take that responsibility seriously. The Texas Beverage Commission supports San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Director Colleen Bridger’s commitment to reducing obesity rates in San Antonio.

However, instead of imposing a tax on thousands of everyday beverages, we as an industry believe consumers are best served when our member companies, governments, and public health organizations work together to fight obesity by encouraging people to consume less sugar.

Our industry has already evolved over the last decade to keep up with Americans’ changing tastes and provide beverage options with less sugar and fewer calories. If you walk down beverage aisles today, you’ll notice that they look different than they did 20, even 10 years ago. You’ll find more options with less or no sugar than ever before, such as teas, enhanced waters, and smaller portions sizes of old favorites. Sales of these smaller packages of Pepsi, Coke, and Dr. Pepper, among other brands, are consistently growing.

All of this is a direct result of innovation and reformulation by big soda companies such as Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, and PepsiCo to cut sugar from beverages. Since 2000, Americans have reduced their consumption of sugar from carbonated soft drinks by 31 percent per person per day. In fact, more than 48 percent of all non-alcoholic beverages purchased in 2016 have no sugar, and 60 percent of new brands and flavors hitting the market are low- or no-calorie drinks.

We have also taken important steps to support our consumers. More than 10 years ago, we voluntarily removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools, and as a result slashed beverage calories shipped to schools by more than 90 percent. We also joined former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to voluntarily place clear calorie labels on the front of all of our drinks to help shoppers make more informed choices.

Even with this progress, we will continue to do more. We know it’s not enough to just offer new beverage options – we also need to ensure people know about them and have access to them. So three fierce competitors – Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, and PepsiCo – have joined forces with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and set a goal to reduce the calories and sugar people get from beverages nationally by 20 percent by 2025. We’ll have an independent evaluator measuring our progress along the way.

We recognize this is a bold commitment, and we’re undertaking a host of strategies to guide consumers toward beverages with less sugar. We’re harnessing our strengths in marketing, innovation, and distribution to encourage people to manage their consumption of added sugars and to try lower-calorie options. Beverage companies even used this year’s Super Bowl ads to promote brands or packages with less sugar. 

While imposing a tax on working families has never proven to improve public health, we believe our combined product and marketing efforts can be effective in reducing the sugar people drink over the long term – and will bring about lasting change. 

Texas beverage companies share the goal of healthy, thriving communities because our lives, our homes, and the jobs we create are right here in San Antonio and Bexar County. Many of us have been here for generations and are proud to call Texas home.

We are also dedicated to supporting our consumers by offering great tasting products and plenty of options to help them moderate their calories and sugar from beverages. When we work together we can make our communities stronger while simultaneously empowering people to lead healthy and balanced lives.

As Texans and as responsible members of our community, that is our commitment.

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Katherine McLane

Katherine McLane represents the Texas Beverage Association. The association serves as a liaison between the industry, government and the public, and provides a unified voice in legislative and regulatory...