PepsiCo, Coke Fight Food Taxes

The beverage companies have spent millions in support of ballot measures that forbid municipalities from enacting food sales taxes—including ones on soda.

November 06, 2018

SEATTLE – In Washington and Oregon, groups like Yes! To Affordable Groceries have poured funds into ads urging support of ballot measures that restrict cities and counties from passing food sales taxes, New York Times reports. Behind those groups are American beverage companies, including PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company, which see such ballot proposals as one way to fight against soda taxes.

The soft drink companies had a major victory over the summer when California passed a law prohibiting any city or county to adopt a tax on soda, but it left in place current laws on the books in Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland and Albany. Lawmakers in Michigan and Arizona have signed similar bills barring cities from levying soda taxes.

Coalitions continue to push for ballot proposals and statewide measures that would curb municipalities from imposing taxes on food and beverages without explicitly pointing to soft drinks. The industry has found support for its efforts.

William Dermody, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said his group sees these ballots as democratic in nature. Many voters don’t want to pay taxes on food and beverages, including soft drinks. “We believe there is a better way to help people reduce the amount of sugar consumed from beverages and bring about lasting change, including working alongside the public health community and offering more low- and no-sugar options,” he said.

The groups also point out that such taxes harm small retailers. “Thousands of good wage jobs are tied to the food and beverage industry, and the taxes are regressive because they take money out of the pockets of folks least able to afford them,” said Peter Lamb, a senior official for Teamsters Local 174, which is supporting the Washington referendum.