Bloomberg Soda Ban Blocks Sale of Low-Calorie Drinks

As I’ve written before, Mayor Bloomberg’s big-soda ban is ill-conceived, unjust, invasive, and useless, among other things. As Seth Goldman, the CEO of Honest Tea pointed in out in a recent letter in The Wall Street Journal, it’s not just ineffective in addressing the nation’s rate of obesity–it’s actually counter-effective.

As Mr. Goldman points out, the problem of high obesity rates was not caused by one industry and will not be solved by this arbitrary regulatory attack on one industry. His company makes low-calorie tea drinks that are packaged in 16.9 ounce bottles. Yet, they are high enough in calories-per-ounce that they would be among the drinks banned by Bloomberg in movie theaters and restaurants. (Bloomberg’s ban applies to drinks larger than 16 ounces with over 25 calories per eight-ounce serving.)

According to Goldman, the choice of bottle size was originally made because it was a cheaper option and fit in with current market demands. Changing their bottle sizes now, however, would present a tremendous additional cost.

We initially went with 16.9 oz. (which is 500 milliliters) because it is a standard size that our bottle supplier had in stock at the time. We subsequently invested several hundred thousand dollars for 16.9 oz. bottle molds. Is 16.9 ounces the perfect size? Who knows? As a beverage marketer, we willingly submit to the unforgiving judgment of the market. What we did not anticipate was an arbitrary decision to constrain consumer choice.

Even if they were able to change their bottles to please the whim of one city mayor, who is to say that other mayors in other cities won’t try to pull the same stunt and demand bottles of even smaller sizes? Should the company constantly alter its production line to suit the whim of regulators while at the same time trying to satisfy the demands of consumers and compete with other drink manufacturers?

Of course, they shouldn’t. If this ban is approved in New York, Honest Tea should write off the entire city rather than suffering the cost of their capricious regulatory impulses. The big result of Mayor Bloomberg’s big soda ban will be fewer low-calorie drink options for consumers along with the loss of jobs related to production and distribution of those products. Well done, Mr. Bloomberg. Perhaps as more and more companies steer clear of New York, resulting in fewer jobs and less tax revenue, people will begin to understand the real cost of regulation. Hopefully the next Mayor of New York will be less concerned with parenting his or her constituents and a little more concerned with bolstering the economy and protecting peoples’ right to make their own choices about what they eat and drink.