The Illusion of Diversity
Three firms control 89% of US soft drink sales. This dominance is obscured from us by the appearance of numerous choices on retailer shelves. Steve Hannaford refers to this as “pseudovariety,” or the illusion of diversity, concealing a lack of real choice. To visualize the extent of pseudovariety in this industry we developed a cluster diagram to represent the number of soft drink brands and varieties found in the refrigerator cases of 94 Michigan retailers, along with their ownership and/or licensing connections.
Professor Howard’s team did a lot of legwork visiting stores to gather the data, recording 987 different varieties of soft drinks from 94 food retailers in the Lansing, Michigan area.
The illusion of diversity in the soft drink industry extends beyond obscuring ownership, as its products are primarily water and sweeteners. More research is needed on the links between pseudovariety and the consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor substances.