A recent study has reportedly claimed that “restricting larger-sized drinks may have the unintended consequence of increasing soda consumption rather than decreasing it.” Brent Wilson, et al., “Regulating the Way to Obesity: Unintended Consequences of Limiting Sugary Drink Sizes,” PLoS One, April 2013. Researchers apparently conducted a behavioral simulation in which 100 University of California, San Diego, students “were offered varying food and drink menus” that replaced larger drink offerings with bundles of smaller drinks. According to the study, the menus given to participants included: (i) an Unregulated menu offering 16-oz., 24-oz. or 32-oz. drinks for sale; (ii) a Bundle menu offering 16-oz. drinks, a bundle of two 12-oz. drinks, or a bundle of two 16-oz. drinks for sale; and (iii) a No Bundle menu offering only 16-oz. drinks for sale.
The results evidently showed that participants bought “significantly more
ounces of soda from the Bundle menu than from the Unregulated menu” but
“significantly fewer ounces of soda from the No Bundle menu than from the
Unregulated menu.” In addition, the study’s authors noted that revenue “was
significantly higher for the Bundle menu” than for both the Unregulated menu
and no Bundle menu.
“These data suggest that a sugary drink restriction may not be effective in reducing consumption when businesses are able to sell bundles of soda that add up to the original, larger drink size,” they concluded. “Proponents of the New York City sugary drink limit are likely anticipating only the small 16 oz size being offered with the medium and large sizes being eliminated from the menu. They may, therefore, be concerned if businesses convert their jumbo-sized sugary drinks into multiple, smaller packages of sugary drinks.”