Coke comes out swinging against soda ban

The beverage giant, joined in the issue by fast-food king McDonald's, says New York can't fight obesity with such a narrow tactic.

By Kim Peterson Jun 8, 2012 2:47PM
Coca-Cola (KO) was pretty quiet last week when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a ban on supersized sodas sold at restaurants and movie theaters. Now the company is striking back.

"New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this," the company said in a statement, according to Reuters. "They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase."

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(MCD) got into the issue as well, which makes sense, since analysts estimate 5% of its sales come from soft drinks. "Public health issues cannot be effectively addressed through a narrowly focused and misguided ban," a spokeswoman for the fast-food chain told Reuters.

Singling out a single type of food won't help the situation, Coke executive Katie Bayne told USA Today. "Sugary drinks can be a part of any diet as long as your calories in balance with the calories out," she said. "Our responsibility is to provide drinks in all the sizes that consumers might need."

Bayne is obviously a fan of Coke products. She says she sometimes drinks a small Diet Coke while cooking breakfast. She also drinks Powerade Zero after running and more Diet Coke and a Gold Peak Tea later in the day. She buys her son a 32-ounce Powerade after his lacrosse practices.

Coca-Cola could get hit hard by this proposal because other cities may seek to issue similar bans. The company controls 70% of the fountain drink market that the proposal targets. (New York is leaving bottled beverages alone.) PepsiCo (PEP) has only 19% of the market, Reuters reports.

The ban does not include diet sodas and milk-based coffee drinks.

Bloomberg is sticking with the proposal. He told the AllThingsD conference that New Yorkers can still eat fatty foods and drink large bottles of soda. The idea behind the ban is to remind residents to keep portion sizes in perspective, he said, according to Reuters. "We are just telling you that this is detrimental to your health and making you understand that by portion size."

So far, Coke and McDonald's aren't saying how they plan to fight the proposal in court. A lawsuit is undoubtedly on the way. These two deep-pocketed companies have armies of lawyers and will not let this pass without a fight.

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