Where has all the soda gone?
You're not the only one missing your favorite fizzy drink.
In these uncertain times, our coping skills (read: vices) are more vital than ever. Because of this I often find myself paraphrasing a certain fictional pirate and asking, “Why is the Fresca always gone?” Obviously, the soda isn’t “gone,” but it’s not all there, either. Pre-diabetics across the nation, and perhaps especially in Utah, are wondering where their favorite flavor of soda can be found. If you must know, I used to be a diehard Dr. Pepper girl, but as my stomach has become more sensitive over the years (I may be 85), I found that Fresca was a better choice. Whether your drink of choice is Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper, or Fresca, there’s been a noticeable decline in the stock of specialty flavors ever since the advent of the pandemic and its supply-chain effects. And I am not okay.
So what’s going on, and why is there an abundance of certain soda flavors and nothing to be found of others? After all, most people have a drink of choice, and if my chosen poison isn’t at the store, I couldn’t care less that there are still countless cans of Fanta on the shelves. Really...Fanta? It’s all about whether or not my flavor is available. Mr. Pibb just doesn’t cut it when your heart pines for Dr. Pepper.
Back in February, when COVID was on its way to exploding across the US, CNN was covering the important issues, like the fact that there was an expected shortage of artificial sweeteners due to supply chain disruptions as a result of the pandemic. With a vengeance, every Utahn went out and bought flour, toilet paper, and cases and cases of Diet Coke. And so the shortages on essentials began.
While it’s true that things like flour and toilet paper shortages may have abated due to everyone’s sourdough starter dying and mass purchases of bidets (I am now a bidet evangelist), the soda problem remains. Even if my sourdough starters Charlotte and Sid are still very much alive, what I really need is my favorite soda back. After all, the last thing I want with my pandemic stress and insurrection anxiety is a glass of milk! Give me aspartame or give me a functioning democracy! I know it’s a tall order to have both right now.
At first, I heard rumors that Fresca was missing from store shelves due to disruptions in supply chains, but that seems like a cop-out. Then I read that the shortages were more likely due to increased demand for 12-ounce aluminum cans. This isn’t all that surprising when you consider the fact that people are drinking more at home, resulting in a higher demand for the 12-ounce metal cans. It’s 2021 and I’m honestly surprised we can’t think of other ways to contain delicious soda. But whether the missing sodas are due to supply chain issues or aluminum shortages, the problem remains the same. I’m guessing this won’t aid me in conducting homeschool for four more months. Heaven help us.
If you ask Coca-Cola where the soda is like Neil Steinberg did, you’ll only be met with vague replies. PR experts have chalked up the soda companies’ lacking responses to simply protecting the brand during a time of shortage. It seems that the last thing a company wants to do is tell me they’re prioritizing a certain flavor over my beloved Peach Citrus Fresca. It’s true that I’m not going to buy the sodas that are left on the shelves, but that doesn’t mean my allegiance to Peach Fresca is any weaker. It just means I’m grumpy and without a major coping mechanism at a stressful time (understatement).
Essentially Coca-Cola wants to keep my hope alive, even if it means LYING TO ME. Don’t they know that soda is one of the few things I use to survive the endless days that are incredibly monotonous and somehow also insanely stressful? (I know, I know, wine is a thing, but I’m not quite there. Yet).
And while right now is a time where you could say, “Hey, it’s a new year, why not kick the habit?” It's also January of 2021—a year where we made it five whole days without unprecedented disaster. Do you really want to quit now? If, like me, you are not ready to do anything so drastic, here are some options to hold you over. Normally I might suggest similar sodas, but I don’t think that’ll be much help due to the aforementioned aluminum shortage.
Instead, you could try Sparkling Ice drinks (not in aluminum), which are usually in abundance at Costco, Harmons, and other grocery stores. Fountain drinks from your favorite local gas station are also a great option, although you won’t have the straight-from-a-can taste. I’ve found it helpful to call stores a few minutes before I go to see if they have my elixir in stock. I’ve also found it more likely to obtain the booty by going to my local grocer later in the evening, as that’s when they tend to be restocking.
The bottom line here is that although production of my beloved soda might be undisturbed, the ability to find adequate container supplies for it may not be, and BIG SODA is going to give the cans to the sodas they think deserve it, regardless of what I or anyone else thinks(damn you, sales data). So the moral of the story here is to stock up when you can, try to be a good neighbor and lend a can, and maybe find a way to start a soda speakeasy for the inevitable dark times ahead when Diet Coke is dead. It would definitely be profitable!