Slowly but surely over the last few years, fizzy drink (aka soda or soft drink) companies in Ireland and elsewhere have been ruining their beverages. First it was Sprite (that I noticed, anyway) and it has made the cycle through almost every other soda I (used to) enjoy drinking, including 7-up, Fanta (all flavors), San Pelligrino Limonata (and other flavors) and even Ginger Ale.
I blame the medical community. The ones who blame the obesity crisis solely on fizzy drinks, as if chocolate, candy/sweets, crisps/chips, and fast food play no part. Nor, it seems, does the entire processed, ready to heat and eat food now available in the supermarkets. The fact that kids don’t play outside much anymore as they are all glued to some form of screen or other (phone, tablet, video game, TV) isn’t on the front line. No, they just put all of their wrath into one type of beverage.
Too much of any of these products is bad for you. Targeting a single product isn’t going to solve the problem.
For every study that says full sugar drinks are bad for you there is an equal study that says artificial sweeteners, when they aren’t causing cancer, can actually cause you to crave high fat and sugar in other foods.
So what have these soft drink companies done? Removed some of the sugar and replaced it with sugar substitutes. They claim they are plant based (Stevia and similar) and give the beverage a ‘great new taste’. Who does their taste testing? I’ve tried these new formulas and each and every one of them tastes like it has been doused with artificial sweeteners – the same taste as saccharin, aspartame, and every other non-sugar sweetener. One swallow is all it takes and I’m pouring the remaining contents down the drain.
Much of this rush to sugar substitutes has been a result of sugar taxes introduced in countries like Ireland and the UK.
I’m not so much opposed to companies substituting part of the sugar for other non-sugar sweeteners, but I do object to them being passed off as the same as the original full-sugar variety. If companies want to create a “lighter” version, that’s fine, but please label it as such. I object to buying a product, taking a swig, and finding out it’s not what I expected and end up binning the rest. Companies need taste testers whose taste buds haven’t been severely damaged by too many artificial sweeteners.
Let the consumer decide. Do they want a sugar-substitute variety at a lower price which may taste different or do they want to pay the price and have their original variety. I’m in the latter category. I don’t drink soda every day, some weeks I don’t drink it at all. I’m not a coffee drinker and not a big tea drinker either, so sometimes when I need a hit of caffeine I reach for a Pepsi (thankfully one of the products that have not succumbed to the sugar switch on its original variety – they have plenty of other part and non-sugar varieties). I like the taste, just as it is.
I also like a lemon beverage when I don’t want caffeine and am out at a restaurant. If I don’t drink coffee or tea and can’t get a decent tasting soft drink at a restaurant, I end up with water. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with water – it’s my beverage of choice 98% of the time. But restaurants don’t make money off tap water – they do off other beverages. So I’m not a cheapskate when ordering water in a restaurant, they just don’t have anything that tastes good that I want to drink.
Did you know an equivalent amount of wine has between 50% and 100% more calories than a can of regular Coke or Pepsi? A pint of beer has almost the same amount as a can of full sugar soda.
Stop hiding behind flawed studies – statistics can be arranged to say whatever the person requesting the statistics wants it to say.
I did write to Nestle when San Pelligrino Limonata, my last frontier, went the way of Stevia. They did write back but the response was pretty much I was out of luck. So I’ve stopped buying their product and every other soft drink product or lemonade that uses artificial sweeteners.
I also complained to Subway in Ireland when they switched to only diet drinks. You can get a sub with double meat and cheese and extra mayo, but you cannot have sugar in your beverage.
The only way to make an impression on companies is to talk with your wallet. If you don’t like the new varieties, stop buying them and let them know why. Hopefully, they will get the message.
Education is the key to building healthy societies, not making decisions for people. Start the education young and follow it through with other healthy choices.
Give people information, but also give them choice. Put a warning sticker on the full sugar variety if you have to, like they did with cigarettes, but let the consumer decide what form of beverage they prefer.