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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues


Kenan Institute 2024 Grand Challenge: Business Resilience
Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues
Jan 7, 2023

A War on Sugar? Effects of Reduced Sugar Content and Package Size in the Soda Category


Increased consumer demand for healthier product options and looming regulation have prompted many consumer goods brands to adjust the amount of sugar content in their product lines, including adding products with reduced sugar content or smaller package sizes. Even as brands adopt such practices, little guidance exists for how they should do so to protect or enhance their brand performance. This paper studies whether and when sugar reduction strategies affect sales. The analysis of almost 130,000 product additions by nearly 80 brands over 11 years in the U.S. soda category shows that, on average, sugar content reductions perform comparable to similar, non-reduced products, while smaller package sizes perform better. Importantly, these effects depend substantially on product labeling, branding, and packaging decisions. By accounting for these contingent effects, this study establishes win–win conditions, in which brands realize higher volume sales while category-level sugar sales decrease. In doing so, our study sheds light on how marketing can bridge brands’ sales objective with society’s health focus—doing well and doing good simultaneously.

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