Perhaps you’ve seen the ad for Pepsi Next. To my knowledge there is only one that has been aired. In it a young 20-something guy comes bursting through the front door of his apartment where his young 20-something wife/significant other/girlfriend is tending to what is presumably their young toddler offspring. He erupts with the proclamation that “He’s found it. The most fantastic thing that he has ever discovered in his young life. It’s Pepsi Next with 30% less sugar than regular Pepsi. It’s the ‘most remarkable thing he’s encountered in his life.’” I guess that includes sex.
The female, after tasting the product goes on to say that “Their parents are going to be so proud [I presume because of his genius at this discovery].” Good grief. Is this the kind of discovery that our 20 year olds consider remarkable – a new soft drink? At the end of the commercial the toddler, overjoyed at his parents’ genius is seen jumping up and down and strumming on an electric guitar – apparently in preparation for his becoming an aspiring rock star – where he will no doubt be able to eclipse his parents’ discovery by partaking of all sorts of illicit substances which only rock stars, pro athletes and politicians can afford.
Let’s think about the commercial and the product for a moment. Apparently, 30% less sugar is a “good thing” – meaning that the regular dose which have been and are being consumed in “Hi-Test Pepsi” that has been marketed since 1893 (in various incarnations) is a “bad thing”. That is certainly the only implication we could draw from the commercial – an admission by the Pepsi-Cola Company that they have been marketing a product that is bad for 120 years. And, of course, they along with their bigger confederate, the Coca-Cola Company have offered products that are, in the minds of many in the medical profession one of the root causes for our explosion in diabetes, obesity and a host of chronic diseases which are currently contributing to the overall unhealthiness of our child and adult populations and are in large part creating the millstone hanging around the neck of American healthcare.
You would have thought that in the 2,000 plus pages of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), some one or several of our geniuses in the Congress might actually have considered looking at the causes of our medical malaise and proposed a tax (just as we impose an excise tax on tobacco and alcohol because of their harmful effects) and said, “We can solve the entire healthcare issue very simply if we tax each serving of carbonated beverage $.25. The additional cost will deter some consumers from drinking the stuff, leading to a healthier population, and the money raised from the rest will close the Medicare/Medicaid budget deficit.
At today’s rates of consumption, this would raise the astounding amount of $160 Million Per Day. That’s $58.4 Billion per year. In addition, in those states and municipal districts which levy a sales tax and which presently do not collect it on soft drinks because they are considered “food”, redefining the product as a non-food item would raise additional billions of dollars in revenue.
But to leave the economics and return briefly to the product, let’s face it. If Pepsi Next uses 30% less sugar and still delivers that sweet taste that consumers love, how do they do it? If you haven’t already guessed, they do it be substituting natural and artificial sweeteners that have, perhaps even worse long term health implications than the sugar that we get from sugar cane and sugar beets. These little killers are high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.
Do you remember several years ago when we were targeted with ads that proclaimed “this product and that product” contained no high fructose corn syrup? And then the industry lobby struck back with their ads contending that “sugar is sugar and the body doesn’t know the difference.” Well, like Jason Voorhees in the “Friday the 13th” movie series, there’s no getting away from it – high fructose corn syrup has made its return. And as I’ve written before, the harmful long-term side effects of aspartame are growing in number. (It is a common sweetener in many carbonated soft drinks). I refer you to an earlier post on the subject:
Of course, it is possible to sweeten beverages and other food products with natural, non-white sugar ingredients. Stevia which is extracted from a variety of sunflowers is a perfect example – and Pepsi knows this because this is exactly what they use in the Pepsi Next beverages that they produce and distribute in Australia. Perhaps the Aussie version of our FDA is more on the ball than our bureaucrats in Washington. Of course, stevia is more costly than mass-produced aspartame which is undoubtedly the reason that it is not included in the product meant for distribution to the far larger American audience.
Just an additional point on the “unhealthiness of Pepsi products”. A research and consumer advocacy group recently released a report that the caramel coloring used by Pepsi contains an unacceptably high level of a carcinogen which is called 4-methylimidazole or 4-Mel for short. While the implications of the consumption of this chemical and cancer in humans has not been conclusively determined, it would seem prudent to avoid it if at all possible.
I always try to remain optimistic and in that regard I hope that our 20-something and partner discover the wonderful product that one can obtain by using a water filter. Thirst quenching, natural and a big step up from any of our carbonated alternatives. If everyone used and enjoyed their output – now that would truly be a revolutionary event.