Study of the first year of Berkeley’s tax on SSBs

Recent research following the first tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in a US city (Berkeley, CA) has found a subsequent decrease in sales.

A study titled “Changes in prices, sales, consumer spending, and beverage consumption one year after a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Berkeley, California, US: A before-and-after study” was published online in PLOS Medicine today (April 18, 2017). The collaborative research from the GFRP team and the Public Health Institute in this study compared pre-taxation and first-year post-taxation prices, sales and store revenue, and surveys of Berkeley residents about beverage intake. The study found that the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) implemented by Berkeley, CA on March 1, 2015 created a drop in purchases of taxed SSBs (a decline of 9.6%) and an increase in sales of untaxed beverages (+3.5%), especially water (+15.6%). Store revenue did not fall more in Berkeley compared to cities without a tax, and the average grocery bill did not increase in Berkeley after the tax.

The study was featured in articles from The Guardian (quoted below), TIME, and SFGate.

“The first sugar tax to be introduced on soft drinks in the United States to fight obesity has cut sales by nearly 10% and apparently increased the numbers of people buying water instead, a study has shown.

Berkeley, California, introduced a substantial tax on sugar-sweetened beverages on 1 March 2015. At the rate of 10% – or one penny per fluid ounce – it adds 12 cents to a 12 ounce can of soda priced at $1, or 68 cents to a two litre bottle costing just over $2 before the tax.”

Watch a video summarizing the study above, read the journal article in PLOSMed, and read more about this study on our Berkeley SSB Tax page. This study was funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies with support from UNC’s Carolina Population Center and its National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant (P2C HD050924).