Study: Limiting soda size causes people to buy more

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A recent study by a group of researchers at the University of California at San Diego may blow a hole right through New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s theory on soda contributing to obesity.

The team found that consumers tend to buy more soda when it’s sold in single servings than when it’s in one large container.

“In a behavioral simulation, participants were offered varying food and drink menus,” the study’s abstract reads. “One menu offered 16 oz, 24 oz, or 32 oz drinks for sale. A second menu offered 16 oz drinks, a bundle of two 12 oz drinks, or a bundle of two 16 oz drinks. A third menu offered only 16 oz drinks for sale.”

The psychologists found that participants bought significantly more soda with bundles than with varying-sized drinks. Total business revenue was also higher when bundles rather than only small-sized drinks were sold.

“Our research suggests that businesses have a strong incentive to offer bundles of soda when drink size is limited,” the study concludes. “Restricting larger-sized drinks may have the unintended consequence of increasing soda consumption rather than decreasing it.”

Mr. Bloomberg proposed a ban on the sale of sugary sodas of more than 16 ounces in order to help the city combat obesity. A judge struck down the measure in March, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” The mayor’s administration plans to appeal the decision.

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