I also thought of entitling this column, ‘We don’t get no respect!’ Either headline would work. What I am referring to is something that has been in the background of the beverage business for a long time: how consistently negative the coverage of this industry is by the mainstream news media.
Let me prove my point. Here’s a list, off the top of my head, of some of the ongoing news stories related to our industry we see in the headlines each week: Alcohol abuse, the obesity epidemic, energy drinks and teens, carcinogens in sodas, carcinogens in cans, drunken driving, water shortages, fungicide in orange juice, fizzling soda sales. Like I said, that’s just off the top of my head. I know there are plenty of others.
We all work in a business that many of us are quite proud to be associated with, and yet swirling around us every day is this cloud of negativity being constantly pushed by the 24-hour modern-day news cycles. Each day, it seems, there’s some new piece of bad news eating away at our industry—and our sense of pride in what we do.
The latest target of a lot of the media has been Pepsi, really ever since brand Pepsi dropped from being No. 2 to No. 3 behind Coke and Diet Coke. It all makes for dramatically entertaining news, and it sells papers and boosts website visits I’m sure.
Here’s another example from FoxNews.com, from a story titled: “The Surprising Health Benefits of Beer.” “If you’ve got party plans this weekend, don’t be afraid to knock back a cold one,” the story begins. “Beer has several surprising health benefits. Despite beer’s bad reputation, it actually has a number of natural antioxidants and vitamins that can help prevent heart disease and even rebuild muscle. It also has one of the highest energy contents of any food or drink. Of course, this means you need to set limits—one beer gets you going, four makes you fat.” Even this good news is reluctantly spewed forth, couched in warnings and encouragements to move beyond our fears of a beverage that’s been loved by billions since, well, Ancient Egypt!
How did we come to find ourselves the constant butt of jokes, warnings and criticism? Part of the reason I think is that beverages are just so taken for granted by the modern day world, that it’s a dog-bites-man kind of thing. The only thing the news media think is of interest are the sensational or the downright negative. Perhaps if we sold iPads rather than soda pop, we’d get a little better press? (Bad example. Sometimes they don’t like you just because you’re too successful, too.)
Well here’s a solution. Maybe beverage companies should show off to the general public just what it is they do. Make it clear that producing, distributing and marketing a beverage is hard, complicated work and shouldn’t be taken for granted. That’s a story we tell in Beverage World each month. Maybe it’s time the rest of the world heard it too.