I am PepsiCo’s worst nightmare.
Well, not exactly. That is reserved for politically correct fanatics who want to slap sin taxes on sugary drinks.
I do come in a close second.
It’s because I hit PepsiCo where it hurts, the pocketbook.
While here is no danger of Pepsi fading in popularity like Sarsaparilla soft drinks did anytime soon, colas and their chemically hyped up cousins diet colas are on the decline.
National consumption peaked at 15 billion gallons in 2004 down to about 12.5 billion gallons in 2012. Diets soda sales are plunging even faster than regular soda. Pepsi’s diet products, as an example, dropped 8.7 percent in stores in 2012 from the previous year compared to 2.1 percent for the real thing.
While I was no Hugh Hefner — the founder of Playboy Enterprises was reputed to have consumed at least a dozen 16-ounce bottles of Pepsi back in the day — I did manage to go through the equivalent of seven 16-ounce bottles a day at one point.
I didn’t eat breakfast nor did I drink coffee. The first thing I consumed after I got going in the morning was a Pepsi.
It goes without saying my ability to drop 95 pounds over 10 months before I turned 30 had a lot to do with replacing Pepsi with diet versions.
I drank diet sodas for the next 18 years under the false assumption they helped me keep weight off. I always felt like I was still thirsty when I got through drinking a diet soda.
What I discovered when I went cold turkey from all versions of soda the first time was that I was actually addicted to the caffeine.
Caffeine withdrawal is not pretty. After several days I had several headaches and my skin had turned a nice pale white. I switched to sports drinks but soon grew tired of those and went back to diet soda. Then nine years ago I swore off diet soda for good.
This time the withdrawal symptoms were virtually non-existent as I had cut my daily consumption down to perhaps two 12-ounce diet sodas a day.
Since then I have made various brands of flavored water and V8 Fusion fruit-vegetable juice my choice of beverage after plain water. I also managed to lose an additional 30 pounds without even trying.
You would think PepsiCo and its brethren that also sell bottled water would benefit from me even more since an uptick in water use has to benefit them, right?
Wrong. Although I do occasionally buy bottled water I see no point in paying PepsiCo for something that they basically get from the same tap that I do. I’m still working on the same case of water I bought in July. I use bottled water primarily on hikes to carry in my backpack and typically refill the bottles several time before recycling them.
To be honest, I’m having a hard time spending $1 for water flavored with fruit. I’m very close to simply finding a way to do it myself. If a twist of lemon works in water in a restaurant I’m sure for the same dollar I can buy two or three lemons or some other citrus and come up with the right mixture in a re-useable water bottle.
That’s not as much the part of me that wants to try to consume healthy beverages as it is the cheap part of me.
I’m still at a loss how PepsiCo — and CocaCola for that matter — can charge more per ounce for their straight water products than they do soda. The soda has added ingredients that cost money. Water doesn’t.
So at the end of the day it is marketing that adds value to their products and not function.
I have no problem with anyone drinking soda, diet or otherwise. That’s their choice.
Nor do I think they should be nagged for consuming them.
The Mark Bloombergs of the world may not sip Big Gulps but they have their fair share of high calories “drinks” such as high-end liquors and dry wines that tend to have some of the highest calorie per gram counts on the planet.
Moderation is obviously the key.
But the problems of PepsiCo et al go beyond that. The perception is that their diet drinks are simply an elixir of chemicals. At the same time the growing mantra over long-range health impacts of consuming empty calories such as in sugar-based soda are having its impacts on sales.
I’d never advocate banning soda, diet or otherwise, of even subjecting it to sin taxes.
But I won’t hesitate to say the reason I’m half the man In used to be — 165 pounds today compared to 320 pounds 28 years ago — has a lot to do with the fact I don’t touch the stuff anymore.
And one of the reasons I’ve got a few extra dollars in my pocket is the fact I primarily drink the safest and cleanest water in the world that flows from my tap. It would take the purchase of 45 bottles of 20-ounce bottled water at a cost of $1.50 each to equal the amount of tap water I can buy at home for a penny.
Perhaps that’s the reason why the Pepsi Generation of today may not be as healthy or as wealthy.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.