Canadian Vending

News
FROM THE EDITOR: April 2007

Pop a top … or a button


March 31, 2008
By Cam Wood

Quite a while back, Greg Suitor shared the best description of the vending industry with me. He said the industry was, in essence, just the model of delivery for products the consumers have demonstrated a desire for.

Pop a top … or a button

Quite a while back, Greg Suitor shared the best description of the vending industry with me. He said the industry was, in essence, just the model of delivery for products the consumers have demonstrated a desire for.

That conversation sticks clearly in the front of my mind as I pour over notes, research and submissions regarding the
current state of soft drink vending in Canada. Soft drinks, and their sugar content, have become the focus of researchers across the continent as they look to define what is causing rising obesity rates in our society.

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A couple of them, including the former president of the Canadian Medical Association, have labelled soft drinks as the new “cigarettes.” They are calling for new taxes, restrictions – even warning labels on soft drinks – in order to mete out another brand of taste-bud justice.

Of course, these highly educated and respected scientists have study upon study to suggest that carbonated beverages are a leading cause of our battle of the bulge.

But why, in all of this debate surrounding the ails of cola, has no one studied the premise that the consumer is free to choose? Soft drinks aren’t making people fat … lack of willpower and indulgence is making people fat.

Beverage associations point to the often-neglected fact of reduced funding from governments and school boards for physical activities. In other arenas, experts have warned against the bigger long-term effect of “bubble-wrapping” our kids by over-legislating what little activities they can do. Some U.S. athletic associations have simply surrendered in the battle over indulgent litigation whenever a child gets hurt in play, and shut down the leagues.

Every childhood experience that most of us share – from climbing the crabapple tree in the park for fresh ammunition, to tobogganing between the fence posts along the icy slopes of Farmer Brown’s fallow field – is being deprived from our own offspring out of fear.

I mean, really, what kind of parent allows their kid to play outside these days anyway?

Sadly, fingers are pointing everywhere, and no one from parents to medical experts wants to acknowledge that our over-indulgent lifestyles are more to blame for weight issues than any singular beverage product.

As Jeff Suitor, current president of the Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association, says in this month’s feature on the state of the soft drink industry, we are the scapegoats. Easy targets for special interest groups, less-than-comical advertising agencies (Sorry Alex Ovechkin, you can play hockey but you’re terrible at picking endorsement commercials), and parental groups that no longer want to assume any responsibility in society’s inability to control itself.

Maybe these groups should dig deeper in the fight. Maybe they should go after the Royal Canadian Mint. After all, it’s those guys who make the nifty little coins that slip so nicely into the soft drink machines…o


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