5 clever ways FSDs are downplaying soda

Some operators are discouraging sugary drinks, while still offering customers an option to buy

Published in FSD C&U Spotlight


soda pop coke glass

It appears the soda bubble has burst. The clamor over the ill effects of soda and sugary beverages is reaching deafening levels lately. The government’s new dietary guidelines, released in January, now explicitly call on consumers to “Drink water instead of sugary drinks.” And restaurants, including Jack in the Box, IHOP, Dairy Queen and Applebee’s are among the latest to announce they’re removing sodas from kids’ menus. Meanwhile, policies are being debated in New York, California and around the world propose to discourage soda consumption through everything from warning labels to higher taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

While lawmakers duke out the details, foodservice directors are taking matters into their own hands. Whether spurred by administrators hoping a soda ban will shave health care costs or a desire to encourage healthier habits, several operators are trying tactics, subtle or strong, to discourage consumption of sugary beverages in their cafeterias and facilities. Such initiatives stop short of removing sodas altogether, so customers still have the option to buy whatever they want to drink. But operators from schools to hospitals to corporate cafeterias are betting that making them less accessible will make better-for-you drinks more enticing. A roundup of recent tactics:

Healthier flavors

Executives at travel website TripAdvisor say they’re taking a “stealth health” approach at the cafeteria in their new corporate digs in Boston. When employees reach for a beverage to go with the free lunch offered daily, they are subtly steered toward flavored waters, teas and juices. That’s because these drinks are visible behind clear glass doors in the beverage cooler, while sodas and other sugary beverages are displayed behind frosted glass, The Boston Globe reports.

Hide and seek

Similarly, Google reportedly stashes the sodas for sale at its dining operations on lower shelves of refrigerated cases, also behind frosted glass, while displaying more healthful items prominently. This extends to sweet and salty treats as well, which are stashed out of sight in opaque containers.

Disappearing act

Bloomington, Minn.-based HealthPartners, home to more than 22,000 workers, announced that it would eliminate more than 80 percent of sugary drinks, including sodas, at its health care clinics and hospitals in 2016. Diet drinks, juices, coffee and tea still will be on offer, and diners remain free to bring in sodas and other drinks from home, Minneapolis’ Star Tribune reports.

Water, water

At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, only diet sodas are offered in the vending machines and water is available for 50 cents to encourage healthier choices, part of a larger wellness initiative at the insurer’s Baton Rouge, La., headquarters.

Shrinking sodas

Food and beverage sold in Florida’s Lee Memorial Health System was partially subsidized for employees. To discourage unhealthy choices, 20-ounce sodas were moved from the cafeteria to the vending machines (which are not subsidized), among other wellness-focused initiatives. Initially, “there was a fair amount of resistance,” says Larry Altier, system director of food and nutrition. “In the last two years or so, there has been growing support for the changes that have been made.”

By the numbers: Pop goes soda

While soda hardly is dead, these stats suggest it is falling flat.


Percentage drop in full-calorie soda sales in the U.S. in the past 20 years

4 billion

Decline in orders of soda and milk in the past decade

6 in 10

Portion of U.S. adults who say they try to avoid soda, regular or diet


Percentage of consumers ages 18–34 who are satisfied with fountain-beverage offerings at c-stores, compared to 71 of older consumers


Percentage of college students who prefer to drink water with dinner


Percentage of foodservice directors who expect carbonated soft drinks to grow on menus in the next year or two


Amount of excise tax on sugary drinks in Berkeley, Calif., the first city in the U.S. to levy such a charge

Sources: Technomic; The New York Times; The NPD Group; Gallup; FSD

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
Voyagers counter

From our partner LTI, Inc.

Building out a serving line comes with its fair share of challenges. Layout and design decisions come first, but operators must then decide how they plan on implementing that layout. Chief among those considerations is whether to use a modular or a customized one-piece serving counter.

When deciding on which type of counter, it becomes important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both. Doing so will ensure counter chosen will meet the facility’s serving needs and will also help avoid issues in areas such as cleaning, electrical...

Industry News & Opinion

Roger Williams University and its foodservice vendor, Bon Appetit, are helping some folks affected by the ongoing government shutdown by giving free dinners to area Coast Guard members and their families.

The Bristol, R.I., university will offer those meals from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday in its Upper Commons dining hall. While many military salaries are still being paid during the federal shutdown, those of Coast Guard members are not, as that branch is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to the university’s website.

James Gubata, a general manager for...

Managing Your Business
JBT Food for Health

Instead of a pill, hospital patients at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) might be handed a prescription for vegetables such as kale and beets.

And those prescriptions are filled and picked up on-site. The Therapeutic Food Pantry located at SFGH is one of a growing number of facilities swapping pills and supplements for fruits, veggies and proteins.

The prescription food program enables doctors and healthcare providers to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables along with other healthy items to patients as part of a road map to sustained health and wellness.


Ideas and Innovation
Government Shutdown

As the government shutdown continues, employees at noncommercial operations are stepping up to make sure that consumers still have access to fresh food. Here’s how four operations are helping out.

1. Prince George County Schools

Prince George County Public Schools in Prince George, Va., has been offering free meals to students this past week. The district also started a donation fund to make sure that all students will receive a hot meal regardless of whether they can pay. The fund has raised $15,000 through community donations so far.


FSD Resources