Four Bucks and Unsnobby Coffee

Hi my name is Julia, I am a senior in college and I am addicted to coffee… and I don’t plan on quitting any time soon.

Coffee is an integral part of my life.  Sometimes the only reason I can pull myself out of bed is because I know that in the next five minutes I can have a steaming hot, delicious cup of coffee.  It wakes me up, it tastes delicious, and I love it!

Out to brunch, ordered coffee - duh

Out to brunch, ordered coffee – duh

As a college student coffee is a major factor in my food and drink budget.  I save some money by buying coffee in bulk and making it at home before my walk up the hill for class.  But sometimes I like to treat myself to some really good high quality coffee, and when I treat myself I consider a trip to Fourbucks… I mean Starbucks!  I am not a complicated orderer (no double shot mochiatto with soy for me, I stick with a plain latte) but I can definitely appreciate a good cup of coffee.  However, within the past few years Starbucks has taken some heat, and gained a little competition when it comes to “specialty” coffee.

Back in 2008 McDonalds threw their hat into the coffee battle, putting up billboards such as “four bucks is dumb” and “large is the new grande”.  Highlighting Starbucks’ weak points, complicated names and expensive drinks, McDonalds opened up the playing field for coffee on the go.

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Now serving espresso, McDonalds is taking the approach that coffee doesn’t have to be complicated.  Small, medium and large, there is no new name for what size you order, and they’re keeping the price low.

However Starbucks didn’t feel the need to fight back.  Wanting to attract a specific customer who wants to pay for the full price of coffee (from the farm to the cup) they are sticking with their prices and their signature brand.

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Yet the two brands are so vastly different, perhaps there is no need for them to fight!  McDonalds prides itself on being quick (hello drive through!) dirt cheap, and easy to order, but typically hides where their products come from and how they are treated.

Starbucks targets its audience with high-end ingredients and froo froo coffee, but also at a price that reflects the fair trade qualities the ingredients they source cover as well as their signature style, and it can be intimidating for people who just want a basic cup of coffee (small or tall, medium or grande = help!?)

Today Starbucks is trying to rebrand themselves yet again to set themselves apart within the competitive coffee world.  What do you think?  Is Starbucks worth the extra money, or is McDonalds good enough?

NP 4/2

Canada Dry – Soda From The Earth?

Who knew that soda grows in the ground?  I sure didn’t.   But in a recent Canada Dry advertisement showcasing their signature Ginger Ale, a little girl running a farm stand straight up pulls a bottle ginger ale out of the earth!  Seeing that her farm stand is getting popular she takes to bigger measures and ends up pulling an entire truck filled with bottled ginger ale out as well and feeds her happy customers with soil grown soda.

Now though this advertisement does enhance their slogan of “Real Ginger, Real Taste” it is quite misleading when it comes to how much ginger really is included in their soft drink.

Real ginger does grow under ground like carrots, and grows a nice long stalk and can produce very pretty red flowers.  Though traditionally ginger drinks contain a lot of ginger, Canada Dry’s version doesn’t even list ginger on the ingredient panel.

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When I looked into this I found some of Canada Dry’s frequently asked questions.

Q:  Why is Made from Real Ginger” stated on Canada Dry Ginger Ale packages?

A:  Consumers told us that they wanted a carbonated soft drink made with natural ingredients, like real ginger while still delivering Canada Dry’s great ginger ale taste. Canada Dry has always been made with high quality, natural flavors— we are highlighting what consumers want to know.

“Consumers told us”.  By directing the question onto the consumer Canada Dry is reframing the blame of how much real ginger (cough none cough) is in their product.

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Q: Why isn’t real ginger listed on the ingredient panel?

A: Real ginger is part of the natural flavors in the ingredient list.  Flavors are grouped together in the ingredient line under the umbrella of “Natural Flavors” to protect Canada Dry’s proprietary formula.

How interesting.  You’d think that a company that shows their soda coming straight out of the earth would have ginger featured on their ingredient labeling!  Another question…

Q: How much real ginger is in Canada Dry Ginger Ale?

A: That information is part of our proprietary formula and is not divulged.

If Canada Dry refuses to tell their consumers how much real ginger is in their product, who is actually going to believe that there is ANY ginger going in?

NP 3/26

The Perfect Cocktail

Ah, How I Met Your Mother.  Nine seasons strong and we still haven’t met the elusive mother… and yet I still watch every Monday night.  What can I say, I’m hooked!   One of todays most popular sitcoms, the five friends are fairly social, and (like some of our other “friends”) have a meeting spot where they hang out over beverages.  For these guys it’s Maclaren’s Pub.

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Like a lot of young professionals the group of friends is frequently seen getting a beer or two together socializing and typically solving their current dating dilemmas.  However, in this one episode Lily and Robin try to find “the perfect cocktail” to get Barney and Marshall the right kind of drunk to to reconcile after having a bad fight.

As the clip explains, each cocktail has a different effect on every member of the gang (for example red wine = self pity for Barney) so finding the perfect one to solve this situation seems difficult.

However, as I was watching this episode I started to think, is this an appropriate way to be portraying the consumption of alcohol on a show has many viewers below the legal drinking age?  Yes, drinking can be fine in moderation, and some of the time the characters on the show do portray responsible drinking.  But in this episode Lily and Robin aim to get the guys drunk so that they can resolve a problem between them.  But, does heavy drinking typically solve problems or create them?

One of the six ways that Bandura’s Social Learning Theory explains how we learn to choose one option over another is modeling.  Bandura’s “major premise is that we can learn by observing others” and he was particularly concerned with the amount of knowledge learned through modeled behaviors conducted through film and television.

How I Met Your Mother is very entertaining (I myself do own a print copy of “The Bro Code” – thanks to legendary best friend) but the portrayal of the effects of alcohol in this clip do not show the negative (hello hangover!) and potentially deadly effects of binge drinking.  The CDC defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above”.  If the guys are getting drunk, they are probably ending up with a higher BAC than .08, and this episode does nothing to address how this could impact their viewers.

Where do you draw the line… is How I Met Your Mother just trying to be funny, or is their characters behavior impacting the decisions of their viewers who themselves may now be trying to find the perfect cocktail?

WP 3/22

Radio Waves Target Sugary Drinks

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This weekend I drove all seven hours in my parent’s 14-year-old purple minivan to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday in Philadelphia.  I managed to make the trip without too much boredom (thank you audio book of “Silver Linings Playbook”) but did take a break from my book to listen

to the local Philly radio.

I was happily surprised to hear a radio PSA for “Food Fit Philly” which is a part of “Get Healthy Philly” a program of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.  The ad was a conversation between two teenagers and a parent talking about the dangers of sugar sweetened beverages and the link between soda and diabetes.  One of the hottest health and policy topics today, the radio ad not only described the negative health effects but also provided some healthy alternatives to sugary drinks such as water with pineapple!

The media campaign is working on targeting the right demographic and I think they chose good placement by choosing to do a radio PSA on one of the more popular Hip Hop stations, listened too by many young adults.  Obesity is a problem in Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia Department of Public Health stated that in 2008 64% of adults and 57% of children ages 6-11 were overweight or obese.

Sugar sweetened beverages are definitely a part of the obesity epidemic in America, yet many people are taking a strong stance against proposed soda taxes, such as the ever brilliant Sarah Palin…

Hopefully socially responsible media will prevail in this battle for a more educated and healthy country.

NP 3/19

The Real Bears

The iconic Coca- Cola bears aren’t too happy in this video.  “The Real Bears” is a slightly shocking animated film about soda from the point of view of a group of polar bears whose health decline with their increased intake of sugar sweetened beverages.

The film, which goes along to Jason Mraz’s song “Sugar”, was created by the Center for Science and Public Interest and is an entertaining way to go about attacking our nations obsession with sugary beverages.

With the bears drinking more and more soda, they start to deteriorate.  One even has to get a leg amputated…

The Center for Science and Public Interest breaks up the film with short facts stating the “truth” about sugary drinks.  Some facts such as “drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases your risk for type 2 diabetes by 25%” and following with “diabetes can lead to erectile dysfunction” are disturbing and cut right to the cord of how harmful soda can be.   These logical inserts add a powerful educational and influential spin on this highly publicized topic.

The use of these facts intermingled in the comedic, yet haunting film, is an effective way to attack the problem.  The bears keep you entertained, yet truly are influential as they get diabetes, loose their sex drive, as well as their limbs all because of soda.

Every move in the film is well calculated and relevant to today’s discussion of sugar-sweetened beverages.  With New York City’s ban on super sized sugary drinks to the proposed sugar sweetened beverage tax, this film is yet another way of attacking what some think is a huge problem and one of the major causes of the obesity epidemic in America.

What do you think?  Are these bears helping fuel the fire or are they going to just be passed over by the millions of dollars that go into sugar sweetened beverage advertising?

NP 3/12

Cardiologist Supports Soda Tax and Adds Credibility

When reading other blogs and news media, one of the first things I do is look to the source of the publication.  As a reader, I feel it is within our rights to know where their position is coming from, and that we are given the whole truth, especially within the world of science.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published an article to help improve public understanding for communicating emerging science on nutrition, food safety, and health by creating guidelines for the communication process.  Based on an advisory group through the Harvard School of Public Health and the International Food Information Council Foundation the list of guidelines they published sets the tone for what the public should be able to get out of reading scientific material.  Some guidelines, such as  “will your communication enhance public understanding of diet and health?” makes sure that the article provides context.  Context may seem inherent for public understanding, but are features that are not represented in many articles on complicated subjects.  If we want the public to be able to understand science information, context is key.

My personal guidelines for responsible communication regarding science is that the article gives enough context so that someone who has never heard of the issue before can feel knowledgeable after the reading, and could contribute their own opinion to the discussion.  I also believe that stating the truth is greatly important and being able to say “we don’t know yet” is an acceptable answer.  Making sure that the readers are not going to be misinformed is of the greatest importance when delivering scientific information to the general public.

In a blog post by Mark Bittman, the author of “How To Cook Everything” and an regular writer on food issues for the New York Times, he chats with a cardiologist working in Richmond, California to pass a new sugar sweetened beverage tax.  I stumbled upon this blog post as a follower of Mark Bittman’s work.  “How to Cook Everything” (his all encompassing cookbook) is my current kitchen bible and I do trust his opinions when it comes to food issues as he has had a lifetime of experience working within the subject.

His post, “A Cardiologist Makes The Case for Taxing Soda” is a great example of a piece of science communication that gives a solid background so that the average reader could follow and take part in the conversation.  One of the hottest topics today, the soda tax has everyone talking, but not everyone has the background to contribute to the conversation.  Speaking with Jeff Ritterman a cardiologist in California, Bittman asks the right questions prompting Ritterman to explain the background on the political and scientific sides of the debate.  He states that the “sugar-sweetened beverage tax is “the single most effective measure to reverse the obesity epidemic” and then continues to give great background information on the topic.  It gives someone with no background on the subject a great base, and goes below the surface into the nutritional problems with soda today.  It goes along with all my guidelines and is being said by a professional doctor (aka an expert!)  I would highly recommend this blog post if you’re interested in a great piece of commentary on nutrition today, or just in reading a well written post!

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            Blogging responsibly is difficult.  With so many publications out in the media world today, it is helpful to have a sense of guidelines when writing for the general public, so that everyone can be informed and apart of the conversation.

WP 3/1

The Hunky Diet Coke Man

He’s back.  That’s right ladies, sound the alarm, the hunky diet coke man is back!  Celebrating 30 years of success, Diet Coke is bringing back one of their most popular spokesmen, the sexy white collar wage worker who loves to drink diet coke (and usually without his shirt!)

In his first appearance as a construction worker, the office ladies get rush to the window at 11:30 for the diet coke man’s daily break.  As he strips off his shirt the women peer over their glasses (really great 90’s fashion in this ad) and sultry music of Etta James “I just want to make love to you” plays as he drinks his diet coke.  Sigh.

Last night at the Oscars, Diet Coke released a new hunky man, this time a gardener!  The same song plays in the background, yet this time the ladies spark the hunky man’s work break as they roll him a can of diet coke.  But since it rolled down a long hill to get to the gardener, it explodes all over him and he has to take off his shirt. Darn.

Both commercials are pretty funny, but are also brilliantly advertised towards women.  Launching the new hunky man during the Oscars, an awards show primarily watched by women, was a smart way of targeting their audience who is already fawning over the attractive actors at the show (cough George Clooney cough).  As a young adult female I laughed and enjoyed the commercial.  A man might not find this advertising as effective, but men aren’t typically the ones drinking diet soda either.   In this case sex sells, and women everywhere love the diet coke man!

NP 2/26