NYC Soda Wars: US Beverage Giants Swat Back at Bloomberg Proposal

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If the battle between New York and Big Soda were a sumo wrestling match, it might shake the entire Eastern Seaboard. The two giants have only begun squaring off in a titanic battle for the gullets and obeisance of Manhattan residents and the moral high ground too, after Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on selling carbonated soft drinks above 16 ounces in regulated outlets in Gotham.

The American soft-drink industry is ramping up its campaign to fight New York’s proposed restrictions on large sugary drinks. Now the city is in the midst of a public-comment period on the proposal ahead of a scheduled July 24th public hearing, and PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and allies aren’t sugar-coating their words in letting it be known exactly what they think of Bloomberg’s idea.[more]

Ahead of Bloomberg’s proposal, America’s beverage lobby arm had planted the seeds of a grassroots-style campaign about “delivering choices” in New York. Since then, lobbyists have met with city politicos. Canvassers are stopping people on the street and urging them to sign petitions, and Facebook and Twitter campaigns are active.

The key message in the industry’s efforts is a base appeal to personal freedom and the hope that New Yorkers, whose reputation is to live with a chip on their shoulders, aren’t going to put up with any perceived nanny state moves.

New radio spots are chiming in: “This is New York City; no one tells us what neighborhood to live in or what team to root for,” says a new radio commercial featuring actors with New York accents giving Bloomberg an imaginary finger. “So are we going to let our mayor tell us what size beverage to buy?” Adds another voice: “It’s unbelievable.”

The American Beverage Association commented to the New York Times that it was “prepared to utilize whatever resources are necessary” to persuade New Yorkers on this issue. And of course the stakes are pretty high for the Bloomberg administration as well.

Mayor Mike, meanwhile, is encouraging New Yorkers to consumer more affordable and healthy choices — fruit and vegetables — by expanding the city’s Health Bucks initiative, while retweeting his soda limit supporters such as celeb chef Mario Batali on Twitter. Should be a lively summer.

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