Sugar: Beverage Marketing’s Magic Bullet


The recent beverage debate taking place in NYC has sparked a lot of interest from beverage companies and consumers alike.  In light of this proposed ban, I decided to explore beverage marketing to identify why exactly consumers are having so much trouble wrapping their heads around the 16oz+ ban and where their vehement attachments are forming.

My initial glance at the beverage marketplace took me to evaluate creative assets such as advertisements and packaging.  Their tactics where similar in nature to other categories, touting benefits from the emotional to the physical.

My next step was to evaluate the products themselves.  That’s when I realized the answer lies not in the marketing communications, but in the product development.  In fact, sugar is one of the most addictive substances, supposedly 4 times more addictive than some illegal drugs.  Some groups argue that because of it’s addictive nature, sugar should be regulated in the same way drugs are.

According to a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience, high-fat and high-calorie foods affect the brain in the same way that illegal drugs do…it activates the release of dopamine signaling a euphoric feeling.  The same study suggests that it can lead to compulsive eating and drinking habits, because you yearn for more and more over time.

Similarly, drinks laden with caffeine also activate the pleasure centers of the brain by providing a shot of adrenaline and slowing the reabsorption of dopamine for a prolonged “happy” feeling.   Beverages heavy with sugar and caffeine have created marketing magic as they’ll never have to rationally convince consumers of the need to buy the products.  They are chemically dependent on them.  Whether you buy brand a, or brand b is another story all together, but the need will always be there.

So when consumers are saying the proposed beverage ban would be an infringement on personal freedoms are they thinking about the constitution or are they simply the charged words of a sugar addict looking for their next fix?

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