How Retailers Responded to Taxes on Sweetened Beverages: A Tale of Two Cities

Publisher: Cambridge, MA: Mathematica
Sep 16, 2019
Authors
Jeanette Holdbrook, Dana Petersen, David Jones, and David Frisvold

To curb the intake of sweetened beverages and boost city revenue, two cities—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Oakland, California—imposed excise taxes on the distribution of sweetened beverages in 2017. This issue brief discusses how beverage retailers implemented the taxes, including who provided the guidance they received onhow to implement the taxes and how they changed beverage prices. It also discusses how retailers responded to the taxes, including how they changed other product prices, store inventory, and marketing strategies. Although there is a growing body of literature on the effects of sweetened beverage taxes on consumer behavior, few studies to date have explored beverage retailers’ implementation of and responses to the tax. Examining the retailer experience can shed light on the actions of a key group that can influence whether consumers buy the taxed beverages or choose healthier substitutes—which in turn determines the efficacy of these kinds of taxes, as intended by policymakers.