Model Schools Switch from Soda to Juice without Losing Funding Fizz; Soda and Junk Food Issue Boosts Healthy Food Sales

RICHMOND, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–April 23, 2004–While British anti-soda education campaigns focus on health, those in the United States are pressured to consider both student health and school financial health. However, model schools in California are teaming with a former NBA star to prove that offering healthy choices also can be lucrative for schools and natural food businesses.

Healthy Body Products in Culver City, Calif., is helping the 1.75 million teens in 55 Los Angeles schools change the stereotype of what healthy tastes like. Claude Tellis and Norm Nixon, a former member of the championship-winning NBA Lakers team, have created events working with celebrities in the schools to help even the “endorsement” playing field for healthy drinks and foods.

“Many schools offer junk food and soda through vending machines,” said Claude Tellis, founder of Healthy Body Products. “Our company has partnered with pioneering high schools to not only replace soda and junk food with water and 100 percent juice, but also to change student attitudes about what is cool to drink. Our strong sales of carbonated juices and other healthy products clearly indicate that when students know better, they will do better.”

Weighing Needs of Students and Schools

A study outlined in the British Medical Journal this week linked an anti-soda education program and a decrease in obesity in elementary school children. In the U.S., school districts increased their purchases of soft drinks by 1,100 percent between 1985 and 1997, according to Food Politics. Now, more than 21 states have passed or are considering legislation for nutritional standards and restrictions on sales.

While soft drink manufacturers have been fighting legislation to restrict school sales, the staunchest opponents are the schools themselves. Spending in the schools has taken its biggest hit in 20 years, according to a policy analyst with the National Education Association.

Vending machines and exclusive contracts with soft drink companies have become a principal source of extra money for districts across the nation, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars for marching bands, the arts, athletics, computer centers and field trips that aren’t included in the school’s budget.

Healthy Businesses Get a Boost

The rise in legislation and restrictions on food and drinks allowed in the schools is boosting business for manufacturers of healthy products that meet nutritional criteria.

The Switch Beverage Company, based in Richmond, Va., credits the backlash of soda with making its all-natural, 100 percent carbonated juice one of the fastest growing single-serve beverages in the natural channel, according to SPINScan. The Switch successfully has been selling to schools in California, Florida, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey and Maryland for more than a year.

The Switch is the only carbonated beverage with government approval to be sold in the schools. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the company an exemption from the “foods and nutritional value” as defined in 7 CFR Part 210.11 (a) (2) and part 220.2 (i-1). The ruling allows the company to sell its 100 percent carbonated juice in a school food service area during meal times.

“We are thrilled with the response from schools,” said Bill Hargis, president of The Switch Beverage Company. “We’ve seen double-digit percentage gains since The Switch was introduced to schools a year ago. The students love it because it’s got a great soda-like taste, and the parents and teachers love it because it’s actually 100 percent juice.”

Added Tellis, “As long as flavor is not sacrificed, teens will choose healthy alternatives if they are accessible and look cool.”