Pear in mind: A blog in the public interest

Grocery stores are the cornerstone of the US food retail environment, providing two-thirds of Americans’ calories. However, 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.  A recent study found sugary drinks in an average of 30 places in Washington, D.C. area grocery stores, tempting shoppers at every turn.  

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. As a vital part of their communities and with a responsibility to their customers, grocery stores adopted policies in response to the pandemic to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Manufacturers and retailers should also reform merchandising policies to reduce the spread of diabetes and heart disease. 

Not only does the current grocery store layout hinder customer wellbeing, but it also ignores customer demands. In fact, a national poll found that 82 percent of Americans want grocery stores to promote healthier items. The business case is even more apparent when considering that 36 percent of Americans, and 77 percent 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. 

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.  

CSPI recently sent letters to the top food retailers and sugary drink manufacturers in the nation, urging them to change company policies to make healthy choices easier at grocery stores by replacing sugary drinks with healthier alternatives. We welcome the opportunity to work with corporations and legislators to keep soda in the soda aisle, where it belongs. 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. 

Sara John (she/her/hers) leads CSPI’s federal policy and private sector efforts to create a healthier, more equitable food retail environment.