Study shows drop in sales of full-calorie carbonated drinks

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — A new study of school beverage sales based on a comprehensive analysis of industry data showed a sharp decline in school purchases of full-calorie carbonated soft drinks (C.S.D.s) from 2002 to 2004. The study also showed that average purchases of full-calorie C.S.D.s at school by American students during school hours were extremely low in 2004.

The study, conducted by Dr. Robert Wescott, an independent economist, concluded that purchases of full-calorie C.S.D.s during normal school hours averaged about one 12-oz can per week for high school students. These estimates were conservatively calculated and likely overstate student purchase levels.

"This study confirms what previous studies have shown — that consumption of full-calorie C.S.D.s purchased from school vending machines during normal school hours is a very minor source of calories in the diets of American youth and is not contributing measurably to obesity rates in the school-age population," said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association.

Dr. Wescott’s study, conducted for the A.B.A., also found that full-calorie C.S.D. sales in schools declined sharply from 2002 to 2004, while sales of other types of beverages increased. During these two years, student purchases of full-calorie C.S.D.s in schools dropped by 24%, while purchases of waters increased by 23%, diet soft drinks by 22%, 100% juices by 15% and sports drinks by 70%.

"Our industry offers a variety of beverage choices in school vending machines and the changing product mix seen in this study shows that students are taking advantage of these choices and selecting the products that fit their lifestyles," Ms. Neely said.

Dr. Wescott’s estimates of student beverage purchases were computed using actual industry school shipments data and U.S. Census estimates of the national student population. The shipments data was obtained from 14 of the largest bottlers in the country, including Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., Coke Consolidated, Pepsi Americas, Pepsi Bottling Group, and Dr Pepper/Seven Up Bottling Group, and is estimated to represent 90% of all U.S. beverage shipments to schools. To corroborate the national purchase estimates, detailed data from 15 benchmark school systems located in 10 states also were collected.

In a related study published last month in the journal Risk Analysis, Dr. Richard Forshee and his colleagues at the University of Maryland found that eliminating full-calorie C.S.D. sales in schools would have little or no impact on adolescent overweight. Dr. Forshee’s study examined the impact of soft drink consumption from vending machines in schools on body mass index (B.M.I.) by applying risk analysis methodology and using data on soft drink consumption in schools from federal government surveys of the U.S. population. The risk analysis study was supported by an unrestricted gift from the A.B.A.

The A.B.A. recently announced a new school vending policy that defines beverage choices for elementary, middle and high schools based on parents’ feedback. The policy reinforces the industry’s commitment to providing a broad range of beverage choices to the school-age population.

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