March 12, 2013

A soda suggestion for fast food places: offer a caffeine-free diet soft drink

Every since Mayor Bloomberg decided to ban big soft drinks, there has been much discussion of the health effects of various kinds of soft drinks. 

I'd like to make a suggestion. Typically, fast food restaurants have drink dispensers that offer six to eight types of soft drinks. Generally, only one is artificially sweetened: either Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi. 

But, for a lot of people, caffeine interferes with sleep, so they don't like to consume it after a certain point in the day. So, if you want a sugar-free and caffeine-free drink, the only alternative offered by most fast food restaurants is water, typically either sold bottled at an absurd mark-up or dispensed at a very slow rate from the soft drink fountain. So, I've often seen people order sugary soft drinks at dinner because a Diet Coke would keep them awake.

Therefore, here's a reasonable step that fast food restaurants could voluntarily take: replace their worst-selling sugared soft drink with a diet non-caffeinated soft drink. Nothing radical, just add Diet Sprite or something like that to the lineup.

My impression, however, is that soft drink companies don't actually want you to realize that it's the caffeine in their products that gives you a lift. They want you to think it's the patented Pepsiosity or whatever.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Caffeine-free Coke and Diet Coke are sold in stores, so it wouldn't be hard to get it into restaurants.

james wilson said...

The diet sodas without caffeine are particularly wretched.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with that Steve. People are really addicted to caffeine and sugar, and seem to really like carbonation. Myself included.

Caffeine-free Coke and Diet Coke are sold in stores, so it wouldn't be hard to get it into restaurants.

It seems to be rare though. I live in the Southwest, and it's only in areas that have a significant Mormon presence. Some 7-11 locations sell it at their fountains.

The diet sodas without caffeine are particularly wretched.

Diet, caffeine Dr. Pepper tastes the same as diet Dr. Pepper, which is pretty palatable.

Dave Pinsen said...

Meet the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, designed by the hotshot Italian industrial engineering firm Pininfarina, which also designs Ferraris. Those machines have plenty of decaf options, because they have plenty of options. Flavors are more precise, too, so you don't normally get sodas that are too flat or too sweet.

Our local Pei Wei (the cheaper version of P.F. Chang's) has one, as does a local outpost of Moe's Mexican Burritos (or whatever that chain is called).

dearieme said...

With their evening meal adults should enjoy a glass of beer or wine, not gulp down sugar water. It's bad enough children being indulged with sugar water; for adults it's pathetically infantile.

guest007 said...

If anyone ever goes to a catered business lunch, they quickly realize that the diet sodas go first and the six cans of Sprite or 7-Up are always there at the end.

Many caterers have realize that most than 50% of the sodas should be diet. A better rule of thumb should be 50% of the soda in the dispensers should be diet soda and the easiest thing to eliminate would be the orange/strawberry soda that is aimed at children.

Orthodox said...

Diet and caffeine free sodas taste like crap. I drink Sprite/7-UP when I don't want caffeine. I found in China at least, if you order a water the cost of a value meal is less.

Shouting Thomas said...

Five Guys burger joints and Panera bakeries offer sugar free iced tea.

Both are higher quality franchise joints.

Don't know how Starbucks stays in biz in competition with Panera. Panera's coffee is far superior, and Panera actually makes great pastries.

Starbucks' coffee is burned and it's pastries are tasteless and have the consistency of cardboard.

Anonymous said...

Golly. Is it impossible for you Americans to just drink water?

Anonymous said...

Heart disease and various metabolic issues have been linked to diet soda consumption.

Anononymous said...

"People are really addicted to caffeine and sugar, and seem to really like carbonation."


I hate carbonation. I used to boil soda to remove the carbonation. They should try a line of Pepsi Flat©.

Anonymous said...

Its unsaturated oils that make people fat and not the sugar.

DCThrowback said...


5 guys in DC now has the freestyle machine. It's amazing.

The regular version of coke and pepsi both have caffeine. Pepsi is also more caffeinated than Coke in both regular and diet versions.

In fact, a diet coke has the same amount as caffeine as regular pepsi.

countenance said...

I managed a small chain of quickie marts/gas stations for a family concern through 2010 and part of 2011. All the stations' soda fountains had Caffeine Free Diet Coke available, but it wasn't a huge seller. The big seller from fountains was Coke Zero, which AFAIK does not have a caffeine free variety available yet.

pat said...

If people are so stupid that they don't understand caffeine what hope is there that they will understand sugar?

Sugary soda pop is probably one of the major causes of "Metabolic Syndrome". Americans and most Westerners today are undergoing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. These two conditions are also very bad for your heart and arteries.

I think it works like this.

Paleolithic man hunted and gathered. He worked hard for his mostly protein and fat food. But the neolithic groups with agriculture could support larger populations with starchy crops.

In the last century food industrialization has added refined sugars and starches to everything. Processed food means "comfort food" - lots of easy to digest starch that breaks down into simple sugars in the gut.

Stub your toe and your body produces endorphins. That's good. But refined opiates that you shoot directly in your arm are bad. Sugar tastes good but a massive wallop of glucose everyday for decades is not something that most people can handle.

So Bloomberg is concerned about the right thing. Sugary soda pop is very bad for you. But is he going about this in a sensible fashion? Simply banning it just leads to black markets and travel to New Jersey. The longer, slower but more permanent approach of education is preferable.

I think people should have a coke every year on their birthday.

Albertosaurus

Sideways said...

Five Guys burger joints and Panera bakeries offer sugar free iced tea.

You know that black teas have caffeine in them, yes?

Reg Cæsar said...

IKEA puts lingonberry juice (or ade, really) in the middle of its soda row. How sugary that is, you'll have to ask them.

A&W cream soda has caffeine. I've never seen any other brand use it.

I'd like to see regional chains embrace regional brands. How about Vernor's at Culver's? (Yes, different states, but adjacent.)

Reg Cæsar said...

I think people should have a coke every year on their birthday. A'saurus

The Swiss dietician Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who invented muesli, was opposed to feeding children candy. But he was wise enough to make exceptions for "festive occasions".

Of course, the European Christian calendar is chock full of festive occasions, so maybe it doesn't make that much of a difference.

Cail Corishev said...

I think people should have a coke every year on their birthday.

When I was growing up, we got soda during birthday parties, and when we had the flu (white soda and crackers). Seemed pretty special then.

Anonymous said...

The sweetener Aspartame is a dangerous substance and is unpopular among younger people with access to internet articles like these.

Once you know, you avoid. Perhaps the coffee shops don't offer them because they get negative feedback, and they don't sell to the younger clientèle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartame_controversy

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

Eric said...

With their evening meal adults should enjoy a glass of beer or wine, not gulp down sugar water. It's bad enough children being indulged with sugar water; for adults it's pathetically infantile.

Not everyone can drink alcohol.

Anonymous said...

"Generally, only one is artificially sweetened: either Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi."

If high fructose corn syrup is an ingredient, then it's artificially sweetened. And that's most of 'em.

Anonymous said...

I have begun patronizing Fuddrucker's, Five Guys, Habit Burger Grill, and Hometown Buffet, because they all have either Coca-Cola Freestyle drink dispensers or at least a caffeine-free diet soda option.