Big Gulp - the most expensive product in history?
I wrote this article 2 years ago on a different blog, but thought it was worth re-publishing today, based on the current goings-on in New York.
>>>>> start reprint
July 6, 2010
New products hit the shelves every day. Some of them introduce a new fad, fashion, or function to our society; others are trying to cash in on a current fad. Some are improvements to things we already have; others change the way we live our lives. For example, plasma TVs and DVDs are great, but it was the old fashioned TV which changed America, and the Video Cassette introduced the home-movie industry.
I don't think a product has been introduced in my lifetime (I was born in 1969) which has had a more profound effect on our society than 7-Eleven's Big Gulp.
I remember playing YMCA Basketball as a kid in elementary school. My dad was the coach, and after every practice half the kids on the team would jump into our van & Dad would treat us to a soda or slurpee at the corner 7-Eleven. I remember Scott Herr being the first kid I knew who could chug an entire can of soda in one gulp, and I remember arguing with Jay Chapman that Coke tasted better than Mellow Yellow. But my most vivid 7-Eleven memory is my first look at the all-new Big Gulp, sometime around 6th grade.
The Big Gulp was HUGE – unlike anything I had seen before. 32 ounces of Coca Cola heaven. Drinking a Big Gulp was like pulling one over on Dad, who said I could have "a pop", but this was more like 3 pops!
Well, it wasn't long before the Super Big Gulp (44 oz), the Double Gulp (64 oz), Circle K's Thirst Buster series, and every other store following suit.
Today the 32oz fountain drink is the standard size across the country, and holding anything else in my hand feels sort of tiny.
So, that's a nice story, but what does it mean?
"Sugar-sweetened beverages are the main source of added sugar and the leading source of calories in our diet. When added to drinks, all sweeteners — including natural ones like brown sugar, sugar in the raw, agave syrup and honey — contribute empty calories. Since 1980, calorie intake has increased by an average of 150 to 300 calories per day with about half of those calories coming from liquids — sugar-sweetened beverages in particular. During the same period, there has been no change in physical activity levels. Simply put, Americans are eating more and exercising the same." (emphasis mine)
So, at the conservative estimate of 150 calories per day, Americans are consuming 4,500 more calories per month. Since it takes approximately 3,500 calories to gain (or lose) 1 lb of body fat, we're gaining over 1lb per month (until we get angry enough to do something about it!) And since chronic diseases (some of which are driven by the obesity epidemic) are a major cause in health care premiums soaring…
(image courtesy of the Bally Total Witness blog.)
The 7-Eleven Big Gulp, introduced in 1980 and the drink which became the standard in America, is a contributing factor to my health insurance premiums being astronomical. This might turn out to be the most expensive 69-cent product in history!
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2 years later, and it's still an interesting topic for discussion. Portion sizes have grown to be gigantic over the last couple-few decades. (so has the percentage of overweight Americans!) I can't think of anything else which could act as the starting point for that trend..