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Sugary Drink FACTS in Brief

Many fruit drinks and energy drinks have as much added sugar and calories as full-calorie soda.

  • An 8-ounce serving of a full-calorie fruit drink has 110 calories and 7 teaspoons of sugar - the same amount found in an 8-ounce serving of a full-calorie soda or energy drink. A 12-ounce can of full-calorie soda typically contains 10 and a ½ teaspoons of sugar.
  • Full-calorie iced teas, sports drinks, and flavored waters typically contain 3 to 5 teaspoons of sugar per 8-ounce serving.

Information on sugary drink packages may confuse people.

  • Some fruit drink packages are covered with images of real fruit, even though these drinks may contain no more than 5 percent real fruit juice. The actual ingredients are water and high-fructose corn syrup, or in some cases "real sugar," such as cane sugar. Examples include: Kool-Aid Jammers, Hawaiian Punch, Capri Sun Orange, and Capri Sun Sunrise (which Capri Sun markets as a breakfast drink).
  • Parents believe that full-sugar soda is not a healthy option for their children, but they are under the impression that children's fruit drinks are healthier. What parents don't realize is that ounce-for-ounce, the fruit drinks are just as high in calories and added sugar as soda.
  • People may be surprised to learn than many products have both added sugar and artificial sweeteners - even children's drinks. People may be unaware of this because the package doesn't indicate that the product contains Splenda. For example, a regular 70-calorie Hawaiian Punch drink has sucralose in it, which is Splenda. Sunny D, Capri Sun Roarin' Waters, and Kool-Aid Singles also contain Splenda.

Sugary drinks are heavily promoted to young people on television and radio.

  • From 2008 to 2010, children's and teens' exposure to TV ads for full-calorie soda doubled.
  • This increase was driven by Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Children's exposure to TV ads for sugary drinks from Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper Snapple Group nearly doubled from 2008 to 2010. In contrast, children were exposed to 22 percent fewer TV ads for PepsiCo sugary drink products.
  • Two-thirds of all radio ads for sugary drinks heard by teens were for full-calorie sodas.

Energy drinks are inappropriate for children and teens, yet they are heavily marketed to them.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says that highly caffeinated energy drinks "have no place in the diet of children and adolescents."
  • Yet, in 2010, teens saw 18 percent more TV ads for energy drinks and heard 46 percent more radio ads, than adults did.
  • Teens also saw 20 percent more TV ads for energy drinks in 2010 than they saw in 2008.
  • Parents may have difficulty monitoring caffeine in drinks because caffeine content is not required - and is often not listed - on product packages.

Young people are targeted through product placements and sponsorships.

  • Two-thirds of the brands analyzed appeared during prime-time programming, totaling nearly 2,000 appearances in 2010.
  • Coca-Cola Classic accounted for three-quarters of brand appearances seen by children and teens.
  • Sixty-three percent of all full-calorie soda and energy drink ads on national TV included sponsorship of an athlete, sports league or team, or an event or cause.

Companies rely heavily on digital media to reach young people.

  • was the most-visited sugary drink company website with 170,000 unique youth visitors per month (42,000 of whom were children and 129,000 were teens); Capri Sun's website was the second-most viewed site, attracting 35,000 children and 35,000 teens per month.
  • Twenty-one sugary drink brands had YouTube channels in 2010 with more than 229 million views by June 2011, including 158 million views for the Red Bull channel alone.
  • Coca-Cola was the most popular of all brands on Facebook, with more than 30 million fans; Red Bull and Monster ranked 5th and 15th, with more than 20 million and 11 million fans, respectively.

Companies are targeting black and Hispanic children and teens.

  • Beverage companies have indicated that they view Hispanics and blacks, and teens as a source of future growth for sugary drink product sales.
  • Black children and teens saw 80 percent to 90 percent more ads compared with white youth, including more than twice as many ads for Sprite, Mountain Dew, 5-hour Energy, and Vitamin Water.
  • Marketing on Spanish-language TV is growing. From 2008 to 2010, Hispanic children saw 49 percent more ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks, and teens saw 99 percent more ads.
  • Hispanic preschoolers saw more ads for Coca-Cola Classic, Kool-Aid, 7 Up and Sunny D than older Hispanic children or Hispanic teens did.

Marketers use nutrient-related claims to promote sugary drinks.

  • More than half of sugary drinks and energy drinks market positive ingredients on their packages, and 64 percent feature their "all-natural" or "real" ingredients. For example, Cherry 7 Up Antioxidant highlights that it is "low sodium," and labels on Kool-Aid powders promote that they have "25% fewer calories than the leading beverage."


Young people must consume less calorie-dense and nutrient-poor beverages. Parents can and should do more to teach children how to make healthy choices. Above all, companies must drastically change their current marketing practices so that children and teens do not receive continuous encouragement to seek out drinks that will severely damage their health.

The beverage industry must establish meaningful standards for child-targeted marketing that applies to all companies-not just those who voluntarily participate in the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.

Beverage companies must change their harmful marketing practices.

  • Develop and market child-friendly products with less added sugar and no artificial sweeteners.
  • Make nutrition and ingredient information more easily accessible.
  • Disclose caffeine content on packaging and online.
  • Discontinue targeting teens with marketing for sugary drinks and caffeinated products.
  • Remove nutrition-related claims from high-sugar products.

Parents can make a difference.

  • Buy and serve children water. You can also buy and serve low-fat or non-fat plain milk for children age 2 or over.
  • Keep juice portions small. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to6 ounces of 100% juice per day for children ages 1 to 6, and 8 to12 ounces per day for older children.
  • Read the labels of children's fruit drinks - check for sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors. Remember - 4 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon, and most children should not have more than 15 grams of sugar per day.
  • Contact beverage companies and tell them to change their harmful marketing practices

Arizona, 800-832-3775 Campbell Soup Company (V8), 800-257-8443
Coca-Cola, 800-438-2653 Dr Pepper Snapple Group, 800-696-5891
Hansen Beverage Company (Monster),
866-322-4466 Ext. 585
Innovation Ventures (5-hour Energy),
Kraft Foods, 847-646-2000 Ocean Spray, 800-662-3263
PepsiCo, 914-253-2000 Red Bull, 310-393-4647
Rockstar, 702-939-5535 Sunny Delight Beverages, 800-395-5849
Unilever (Lipton), 888-547-8668 Welch Foods Inc. (Welch's), 800-340-6870

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