Soda Politics: lessons from the food movement

Co-presented with the Charles Perkins Centre

The Nicholas Catchlove Lecture*

1 March, 2016

In public health terms soft-drinks, called soda in the US, are low-hanging fruit. Containing little more than sugars and water, and increasing linked to obesity and other health problems, they are an easy target for health advocacy. In the US sodas have enabled their makers, primarily Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, to become multibillion dollar, international industries. These companies spend billions of dollars annually to promote sales to children, minorities, and low-income populations, not only through advertising, but also through every other trick in the tobacco industry’s playbook.

Health advocates, however, have found many ways to counter the relentless marketing and political pressures. As a result, soda sales are falling, at least in the United States and Mexico. Lessons learned from soda advocacy are applicable to advocacy for additional aspects of the movement toward healthier and more sustainable food systems.


Professor Marion Nestle

Professor Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003. She is also Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. Her research examines scientific and societal influences on food choice, obesity, and food safety, emphasising the role of food marketing.

She is the author of five prize-winning books, most notably Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and What to Eat. Her most recent book is Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).

She blogs daily (almost) at and tweets @marionnestle (ranked by Time Magazine, Science Magazine, and The Guardian as among the most influential in health and science).

* The Nicholas Catchlove Scholarship was established in 2010 on receipt of a generous donation by Dr Barry Catchlove AM (MBBS ’66 HonFellow ’08).