Despite product innovation and the soft drinks industry latching onto the Olympics, Paralympics and the Queen’s Jubilee festivities, sales of fizzy drinks fell in 2012 for the first time in many years. Whether this drop was due to tight budgets, people yielding to health advice or a bad summer is unclear, but the future of sweet fizzy drinks looks uncertain.
The companies will be fine however as ‘healthier’ rivals (flavoured waters and functional beverages like energy and sports drinks) are, as we shall see, made by the same people.
As in most industries today, ownership within the soft drinks industry is messy. Some brands are owned by one company, or two, and yet distributed or licensed by another company within certain countries. This was the case for most PepsiCo brands, which were licensed and distributed by Britvic plc within the UK. For our rankings we therefore combined the scores of PepsiCo and Britvic plc. See the Company Profiles section for more information on brand ownership.
As usual, the complicated nature of multinationals operating in a global market – without one regulatory body – raised some interesting ethical issues, especially where company policies didn’t cover their entire supply chain. For example, the UK branch of Coca-Cola, may claim GM-free products and yet have a branch in the US, whose products are highly likely to contain GMOs due to the high prevalence of GM sugar beet and corn in the US. Buying a can of Coca-Cola within the UK therefore indirectly supports the use of GMOs.
Still soft drinks
- Britvic plc (Tango) also owns the J2O, Robinson’s, Fruit Shoot and Lipton Ice Tea brands.
- AG Barr (Irn Bru) also owns the Simply brand.
- The Coca-Cola Company also owns the Oasis and 5 Alive brands.
PepsiCo is second only to Coca-Cola within the fizzy drinks market. Its well known drink brands include Pepsi, Mountain Dew, 7Up and Gatorade, all of which are distributed by Britvic plc within the UK. These brands therefore received marks from both PepsiCo and Britvic plc. PepsiCo also owns the juice brands, Tropicana and Copella and Old Jamaica Ginger Beer.
The company has received multiple criticisms for inappropriate advertising, the latest of which forced the company to withdraw a “racist” Mountain Dew ad. The online ad showed a battered white woman on crutches being asked to identify a suspect out of a police line-up of black men and a goat. A blogger described the 60 second video as “arguably the most racist commercial in history”.
The US-based ‘GMO inside campaign’ are calling for PepsiCo to label their GMO ingredients, or to get GMOs completely out of their products. According to the Non-GMO Project, 95% of the sugar beet crop and more than 88% of the corn crop are now genetically modified in the US. It stated that Coca-Cola and Pepsi have spent more than $4.1 million to derail GMO labelling in the US.
See detailed company information, ethical ratings and issues for all companies mentioned in this guide, by clicking on a brand name in the Score table.
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This product guide is part of a Special Report on Soft Drinks. See what's in the rest of the report.