Bottled Water Increasing in Popularity at Schools

Sept. 17, 2007

School vending machines are stocked with fewer high-calorie soft drinks today because some states have banned the sale of sodas on campus and the beverage industry is phasing in healthier drinks, according to an industry report.

The findings being released Monday are in the industry's first report card since agreeing in May 2006 to pull nondiet soft drinks from the vast majority of public and private schools over the next three years.

Nondiet soda accounted for 32 percent of the drinks for sale at schools during the 2006-07 school year. In 2004 it was 47 percent.

"Through these guidelines, the beverage industry is cutting calories in schools in a dramatic way across the country," said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the American Beverage Association. The trade group represents the country's nonalcoholic beverage industry, which includes soda, bottled water and fruit drinks.

Most elementary schools are already soda-free. But under the voluntary guidelines, beverage companies agreed to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat and nonfat milk to elementary and middle schools. Diet sodas and sports drinks will remain in high schools.

The guidelines were brokered by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a collaboration between the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation and the American Heart Association.

It involves industry leaders Cadbury Schweppes PLC, Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. as well as the beverage association, which together control 87 percent of the public and private school drink market.

Overall, shipments of all beverages to schools, when measured in ounces, dropped 27 percent between 2004 and the 2006-07 school year.

The biggest declines were in sugary fruit drinks, 56.2 percent, and full-calorie soft drinks, 45.1 percent. Meanwhile, there was a 22.8 percent increase in the volume of bottled water in school vending machines.

Neely said that the guidelines led the beverage industry to invest millions of dollars to retrofit vending machines and repackage products. Those efforts will continue as companies work toward fully ending sales of nondiet soft drinks by the 2009-10 school year.

Source: Las Vegas Sun