‘Keep soda in the soda aisle’, says CSPI

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Make water and seltzers available at checkouts instead of soda, says CSPI. Pic:getty/edhonowitz
Make water and seltzers available at checkouts instead of soda, says CSPI. Pic:getty/edhonowitz

Related tags Cspi soda Sugar-sweetened beverages

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a US consumer advocacy organization, is urging the country’s top food retailers and sugary drink manufacturers to remove sugar-laden drinks from impulse buy locations in stores.

The organization wants to see sugary drinks - such as sodas, punches, lemonades and sports drinks - removed from end caps, checkouts and displays outside of the soda aisle. It wants these drinks to be replaced by healthier alternatives such as water and seltzers.

Its recent pilot study, ‘Soda on Display’, found sodas and sugary drinks in an average of 30 places in grocery stores in the Washington, DC area: ‘tempting shoppers at every turn’.

“Food and beverage manufacturers have long limited food retailers’ potential positive impact on community health by paying for the prominent placement of sugar-laden, ultra-processed items, most notably soda and other sugary drinks," ​says the organization.

“Manufacturers and retailers strategically place these products in the front of stores, at the ends of aisles, and in checkout lanes to drive impulse purchases of drinks that benefit corporate wealth at the expense of consumer health.”

Furthermore, consumers themselves want healthier items to be more visible, says the CSPI: quoting a national poll that found 82% of Americans want grocery stores to promote healthier items.

In fact, 36% of Americans (and 77% of parents that shop with their kids) would change stores to shop at a retailer that makes healthier choices easier by keeping soda in the soda aisle – adding a business case to the public health argument, notes the organization.

“Retailers and manufacturers can align business and public interests by Keeping Soda in the Soda Aisle and dedicating more retail space to the healthier products their customers demand. Increasing sales of healthier drinks can be a win-win for both businesses and consumers.

"Beverage companies can feature their products in a rapidly growing category, grocery stores can drive healthier beverage sales and build customer loyalty, and Americans can get the healthier grocery experience they desire and deserve.”  

The CSPI has written to food retailers and sugary drink manufacturers, urging them to change company policies and replace sugary drinks in impulse buy points with healthier alternatives. It also encourages consumers to join it in advocating for healthier grocery stores.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with corporations and legislators to keep soda in the soda aisle, where it belongs,"​ says the CSPI. "Consumers can advocate for healthier grocery stores by signing our petition, talking to their local grocery store manager, and working with their local elected officials to pass ordinances to Keep Soda in the Soda Aisle.”

The city of Berkeley, California, passed a Healthy Checkout Aisle ordinance in September 2020: banning junk foods from grocery checkouts (the ordinance applies to stores over 2,500 square feet).

Beverages in the checkout aisle must have no added sugars and no artificial sweeteners.

In the UK, the government is set to restrict unhealthy food promotions in stores​ from October 2022, affecting categories such as soft drinks, sweetened milk drinks and juices with added sugars. 

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