Since 2001 Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been like a case of herpes, always flaring up to stand in the way of a good time and impossible to get rid of. Acquired by New York City voters (including, shamefully, this one) after 9/11 like some social disease picked up in a long-regretted post-attacks hookup, Bloomberg has in the last decade become the personification of the elite, technocratic ideal that people are idiots, marketing departments pull the strings, and that only the heavy hand of the state stands between us and a corpulent, corporatized brave new world that looks like WALL-E without the cool spaceships or romantic robots.
Case in point? Bloomberg’s ludicrous attempt to control the size of sodas sold in New York’s five boroughs. His rationale was and remains that of statists everywhere: The government has your best interest at heart, not corporations. You have too much choice, and don’t know what to do with it. Trust us to know better, not them, and certainly not yourself.
Which assumes a serious inflexibility on the part of the market and of suppliers to respond to what consumers want – which would, Bloomberg aside, appear to be healthier food options.
Yes, there are some corporations that are doubling down on the old model – take Coca-Cola, which is hoping Coke might catch on as a breakfast drink beyond the Honey Boo Boo classes:
Get people to drink swap tea or coffee for soft drinks with breakfast — that’s one of the strategies Coca-Cola’s main bottler in Europe is targeting to boost soft drink consumption in the United Kingdom.
Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. issued a report last week that identifies a variety of ways it can increase sales over the next five years in the region. One category entitled “Complete the Meal” notes that breakfast is often referred to as the most important meal of the day, with about a quarter of all drinks being consumed before 10 a.m.
“How do we motivate people to make soft drinks, like smoothies, juices and other on-the-go products, part of their morning ritual in the same way as tea or coffee?” the report asks.
Awful, terrible, there ought to be a law, et cetera. Yet others, such as Pepsi, are taking things in a different direction:
PepsiCo Inc (PEP.N) – best known for Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay chips – is taking its Muller yogurt brand nationwide expanding its portfolio of healthier foods at a time that U.S. consumers are increasingly shunning traditional soft drinks …
To boost its chances of success, PepsiCo has partnered with Germany’s Theo Muller Group, a stalwart of the European dairy industry, repeating a strategy that has already made the snack-and-soda company a leading U.S. purveyor of hummus and other healthy dips.
Pepsi, apparently, has also started hiring health experts to help the company re-position itself, meet consumer demand for healthier products and, at the same time, avoid a repeat of the tax-and-ban campaigns public health types successfully waged on tobacco and which, looking for new targets, saw soda companies in the firing line.
So what’s the point of this?
Well, put simply, it is that when it comes to fighting obesity or any other crisis – real or imagined – society is in the long run a lot better off with a number of competing ideas (i.e. Coke versus Pepsi) than one (the Mike Bloombergs of the world regulating our drink sizes).
Here endeth the rant.