Breakfast Cola: Icing Down the Morning Jolt

The Hartford Courant

Here’s a story you may not want to read over breakfast. It’s about individuals with a life style you may find shocking, even stomach-turning: people who drink soda first thing in the morning.

Jared Cilley, who mans a men’s fragrance counter in downtown Hartford, stops at a snack bar before work each morning for an apple Danish and a medium Coke. “I think it’s the combination of sugar and caffeine that really . . . “ he pauses, at a loss for words, then swings his right arm as if he were loading a torpedo tube.

When he shows up for early-morning meetings swigging soda, co-workers “look at me like I’m from Mars,” Cilley says.


The habit is catching on. About 10.3% of all soft drinks are being drunk in the morning, according to industry figures.

Soda makers, especially the cola kings, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, are moving to cash in. A “Coca-Cola in the morning” campaign is being plugged across the country by about 40% of the company’s bottlers.

The Pepsi-Cola Co. recently announced plans to test market a new soda, Pepsi A.M., developed for morning drinkers after extensive taste tests. It will have fewer bubbles and almost a third more caffeine than regular Pepsi. It will be test marketed in some as-yet-unnamed Midwestern markets, and introduced with a commercial campaign claiming it has “the taste that beats coffee cold.”

What’s going on here? Why is coffee slipping? Per-capita consumption has dropped 14% in the past decade, while per-capita soda swilling has risen 40% since 1977--and some of that gain is from, ugh, cereal chasers.

Maybe it’s just simple decadence--a sort of Pepsi degeneration, another product of wanton permissiveness. After all, silk-pajama’d playboy Hugh Hefner may have been one of the first and most famous breakfast Pepsi guzzlers. He is said to have switched to caffeine-free after his 1986 stroke.

But one beverage expert says Americans’ increasing preference for cola drinks, even in the morning, isn’t based on advertising or pop perversity. It’s a measure of the advanced U.S. culture.


“In agrarian societies they prefer hot and acrid beverages,” such as coffee, tea and soups, says Jesse Meyers, publisher of the industry weekly, Beverage Digest. “They can’t have soft drinks in an agrarian society because they have no manufacturing process and they have no ice to make it cold.”

In contrast, in “an information-driven society such as America today, you go from cold and sweet . . . to cold, sweet, swift and image-enhancing.”