My Love/Hate Relationship with Soda Pop

By Andrew Davidson
on March 28, 2010

I must have been sleeping when Mayor Nutter proposed a 2¢ tax per ounce of soda sold in Philadelphia for 2010. Now, this hasn't passed yet, but it might (and I imagine at half the rate), and I applaud his efforts. I, like many Americans, am dutifully addicted to soda. With a potential new local tax on my #1 addiction, what will be my new cost?

It's all about the Sweetener

I can go on about how Princeton University recently released the news that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), America's #1 sweetener, is linked directly to increased obesity, even over a similar diet with regular sugar. It turns out that while plain sugar is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, and High Fructose Corn Syrup is 55 percent fructose and 42 percent glucose. This tiny molecular difference made all the subjects (OK, rats) in this test gain more weight and keep it on. We may have discovered the culprit to the recent obesity epidemic troubling America today.

It's all about the Diet-Sweetener

Ok, so avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup by getting a diet fountain soda, those don't sweeten with High Fructose Corn Syrup, they use (surprise!) saccharin, the proven cancer-causing sweetener. Unfortunately, aspartame doesn't work in concentrate form, it seems. Before you grab your Big Gulp Cup, I'd read this abstract to discover that half of all soda fountains are tainted with feces. Yuk!

It's all about the Packaging

I prefer glass and cans over plastic bottles because they are infinitely recyclable. There is no end life to the aluminum can you hold in your hand - it can and will be recycled a million times if you allow it. Same goes with glass bottles. Plastic recycling is never recycled back into similar edible containers, usually other plastic uses (tires, clothing), and rarely again for edible purposes. While cheap, light and strong, the never-really-gone and rarely-recycled plastic is a poor choice.

It's all about the Cost

Sure, McDonald's is offering cheap ($1) any-size sodas this summer, according to the WSJ If only I didn't do the math... Straight from a restaurant manager from Reddit, edited for clarity:

The 5 gallon boxes of syrup cost $40. At 5-1 mix ratio, we got 30 gallons (3840 ounces) of mixed soda from each. Each 22 ounce glass held about 13 ounces of soda after ice. This results in somewhere around 300 glasses of soda, at a cost of 13¢ per glass, which we sold for $2.29 each.

So retailers make big money from simple sugar-sweetened water. How does the corporate pusher benefit?

It's all about the Profit

According to Newsweek, who read “Belching Out The Devil” by British satirist and TV host Mark Thomas (emphasis mine):

The concentrate for 70 percent of Coca-Cola's 1.5 billion drinks served each day originates in the tax haven of Ireland, where enough concentrate for 50,000 Cokes costs $2.60—including labor. The concentrate's main ingredient? Caramel.

So, corporate Coca-Cola hides it's production in a tax haven. And it's unbelievably cheap, therefore unbelievably profitable. Another startling fact: Caramelization is the removal of water from a sugar. So Coca-Colas concentrate's main ingredient is sugar, which is then mixed with another sweetener, often cheaper than sugar, to reduce costs.

Feel like getting a glass of water from the tap, now?