American Beverage Association

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

The American Beverage Association (ABA) is a Washington D.C.-based trade association for the soft drink industry that lobbies, channels political contributions, and engages in public relations on behalf of its member companies. On its website it describes itself as comprising the "trade association representing the non-alcoholic beverage industry."[1]


The American Beverage Association, previously known as the National Soft Drink Association, was founded in 1919 as the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages as the trade-industry representative of the non-alcoholic beverage industry. In November 2004, the National Soft Drink Association announced that it was changing its name the American Beverage Association (ABA) "to better reflect the expanded range of nonalcoholic beverages the industry produces." To help spread the message of its name change the ABA also issued a video news release.[2]

ABA's School Vending Policy

In August 2005, the ABA announced a new school-based policy to provide lower calorie and/or nutritious beverages to schools and to limit the availability of soft drinks at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures [3] "The first salvo in a broader public-relations counterattack by beverage companies to help the industry reverse its tarnished image", the Wall Street Journal reports, is voluntary restrictions on drink sales in schools. The guidelines, touted "in full-page ads in several national newspapers," suggest that new school contracts remove carbonated soft drinks from elementary schools and remove sugary drinks from middle schools during school hours. All beverages will continue to be sold in high schools.[4]

Susan Neely, "the creator of the 'Harry and Louise' ads that helped torpedo President Clinton's health-care plan in the early 1990s," heads the industry group and is leading the "multimillion-dollar advertising and PR campaign to show that the beverage industry derives a substantial portion of its sales and growth from healthier beverages." Neely told the Wall Street Journal, "you have to have an industry voice."[4]

"Soda industry touts school ban to quiet obesity critics," reads the PR Week headline on a story outlining the soft-drink industry's latest defensive move in response to national concerns about childhood obesity. Even leading food-industry publication "Vending Market Watch" noted that, "This new policy is clearly designed to counteract criticism from consumer activists and politicians who say the beverage industry is profiting at children's expense" [5] PR giant Porter Novelli is working with the American Beverage Association to promote the trade group's school vending policy. The voluntary code recommends some limits on the sale of sugary carbonated beverages in schools, but still allows for sales of juices and sports drinks.[6]

According to PR Week, Porter Novelli "will assist [ABA] in talking about the new policy with educators, parents, legislators, regulators, and other groups interested in school nutrition issues." The group has already run full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today publicizing its new policy. Porter Novelli also worked on developing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid.[6]

The ABA policy, however, has no government enforcement or oversight mechanism, and only applies to vending machines, imposing no restrictions on other venues where drinks are sold in schools, such as school canteens and sporting events. The policy applies only to new school contracts, too; it can be amended to old agreements only with the consent of both parties. Beverages are also sold to schools through local distributors, which operate under the jurisdiction of their parent companies, and as such, have the ultimate say regarding which products are made available to schools and under what terms [7] This point is conceded by the ABA itself: "the success of the policy is dependent on voluntary implementation of it by individual beverage companies and by school officials"[8]

In the months after ABA's announcement, Iowa lawmakers rejected a bill aimed at removing soda from schools. Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack supported the move and applauded the American Beverage Association for its leadership in "taking pop out of machines located in elementary and middle schools" [9] Massachusetts legislators introduced a bill that basically mirrored the ABA's voluntary policy a few months later.[10]

Taking a different tack, in May 2006, the American Beverage Association joined with soda companies, the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association to announce a new voluntary school policy to limit the portion size and number of calories available to students [11]

Political contributions

The American Beverage Association made the following political contributions to federal candidates through its political action committee as of December 2010:[12]

Election cycle Amount To Democrats To Republicans
2010 $133,002 69% 31%
2008 $120,865 45% 55%
2006 $107,357 22% 77%


The Association spent $18,850,000 for lobbying in 2009.[13]

ABA has lobbied on behalf of Coke and other soda companies against legislation that would limit consumption of their products. It has claimed that "sugar-sweetened beverages are not driving health issues like obesity and diabetes." [14] Yet, a Centers for Disease Control Study has found that "sugared beverages... "have been linked with weight gain, obesity, poor diet, and, in adults, type 2 diabetes." [15]

In 2009, the ABA spent $18.9 million on lobbying, much of which was directed towards an ad campaign trying to stem efforts to implement a federal soft-drink tax to finance the Obama health care bill. [16]

The ABA partnered up with Coke in Philadelphia to lobby against similar legislation: "In Philadelphia, they defeated a modest tax on soft drinks by using the tobacco industry tactic of applying strategic philanthropy to purchase leverage in the form of goodwill. The ABA formed a deceptively-named front group, the Foundation for Healthy America, that they then used to funnel a $10 million donation to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to, of all things, expand its obesity program." [17]


As of December 2010 includes:[18]


  • Chair Tom L. Bené (Tom L. Bene), President, Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages
  • Vice Chair Claude B. Nielsen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Coca-Cola Bottling Company United
  • William B. Cyr (Billy Cyr), President and Chief Executive Officer Sunny Delight Beverages Co.
  • Jim Johnston, President, Beverage Concentrate Sales and Latin American Beverages, Dr Pepper Snapple Group


Contact details

American Beverage Association
1101 16th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Main Telephone Number: (202) 463- 6732
Fax Number: (202) 659-5349
Press Questions: (202) 463-6770
Email: info AT

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. American Beverage Association, "About ABA: The American Beverage Association", accessed October 2008.
  2. "It's a 'Bevolution": National Soft Drink Association Changes name to American Beverage Association to Reflect Wide Range of Beverages Industry Produces", Media Release, November 11, 2004.
  3. American Beverage Association, press release "Beverage Industry Announces New School Vending Policy," August 16, 2005.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Betsy McKay, "Soda Marketers Will Cut Back Sales to Schools", Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2005.
  5. Elliot Maras, Beverage Industry Group Supporters Limiting Carbonated Soda in Schools, "Vending Market Watch," August 17, 2005.
  6. 6.0 6.1 John N. Frank, "Soda industry touts school ban to quiet obesity critics", PR Week, August 26, 2005.
  7. Michele Simon "Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Underminds Our Health and How to Fight Back," Nation Books: 2006, pg 14-15.
  8. American Beverage Association, press release "Beverage Industry Announces New School Vending Policy," August 16, 2005.
  9. Tom Dorman, Vilsack: Educate Kids on Making Good Food Choices, "Quad-City Times," February 16, 2006.
  10. Tracy Jan, A Sweet Tooth is Tough to Pull: Even When Schools Ban Candy Machines, Pupils Indulge, "Boston Globe," February 15, 2006.
  11. Clinton Foundation "Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Industry Leaders Set Healthy School Beverage Guidelines for U.S. Schools" May 3, 2006.
  12. PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed December 2010.
  13. Lobbying expenditures, Open Secrets, accessed December 2010.
  14. American Beverage Association Statement on NCHS Data Brief, PR Newswire, August 31, 2011, accessed October 21, 2011
  15. CDC: Why do Half of American Teens Consume Sugary Drinks? International Business Times, September 1, 2011, accessed October 21, 2011
  16. ALEC and Coca-Cola: A "Classic" Collaboration PR Watch, October 12, 2011, accessed October 21, 2011
  17. ALEC and Coca-Cola: A "Classic" Collaboration PR Watch, October 12, 2011, accessed October 21, 2011
  18. ABA team, American Beverage Association, accessed December 2010.

External articles