Inflation happens, but it’s truly astonishing what has happened to soft drink prices over the last decade or so. I suppose these things stand out more to me than many others because I live in a world of technology where things tend to get cheaper rather than more expensive over time. But if you look at other food items, it doesn’t seem like they’ve gone up nearly as much as soft drinks.
I remember bottles reached 99 cents. This was significant because it marked the first time that soft drinks were cheaper from a vending machine than a convenience store. Once you accounted for sales tax, anyway. I thought that it was this bizarre anomaly that wouldn’t last. The reason, it seemed to me, was simply that the vending machine people like the nice round $1 and would be slower to move it up from $1 to $1.25 than they were from 75 cents to a dollar. But it’s more or less been that way ever since. I guess the vending machines are cheap enough to maintain that they don’t have to charge as much to make a profit. In fact, the disparity has increased. Soft drink prices in convenience stores seem to be around $1.70 or $1.80 most places I look.
One thing that’s been happening more recently, though, is a lot more variance among different brands. It used to be that Coke’s lineup and Pepsi’s lineup would be similarly priced and no matter what you got a bottle of you were paying about the same amount. The first big exception I remember to this was back when Mountain Dew had the Pitch Black flavor that sold abysmally. By the end there, the local convenience store on my way home in Deseret was selling those three for a dollar. It was tough to decide whether or not the price break was worth drinking that awful, awful drink. At first it was, but quickly became wasn’t.
Some of the local convenience stores have been selling the Pepsi Throwbacks at a significantly reduced price. Usually about $1 to $1.79 for the regular Pepsi and Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, I don’t like Pepsi of either variant from a bottle and I find the sugar Mountain Dew to be utterly inferior to the corn syrup stuff. The real steal right now for Mountain Dew fans is Vault. Vault would be Coke’s answer to the product. It’s not as good as Mountain Dew, but isn’t so bad and only costs a whopping 80 cents a bottle out here. I had initially assumed that the low pricing meant that Vault was being discontinued. Vault is Coke’s third try (that I am aware of) at unseating Mountain Dew, intermittently trying with Mello Yello and once a product called Surge.
But they keep making the stuff and selling the Vault stuff. Maybe they figure that if they can just get people to try it that they will realize that it tastes pretty good. Maybe they’re armed with blind taste tests giving them this idea. Honestly, I consider straight Mountain Dew and Vault to be comparable in quality, but I think Vault gets a grading curve because I don’t get it all that often and if I was stuck on a desert island there’s no doubt which I would prefer. What Coke needs to do next time around, if Vault doesn’t make it, is contract out the formula for Kroger’s Big K Citrus Drop product. That stuff is goooood. That it’s a house brand and cheaper is just icing on the cake. I would pay full price for it. This is in stark contrast to any of the other house brand options out there (Mountain Breeze, Mountain Lion, Mountain Lightning, etc…), most of which taste like flattened or watered down Mountain Dew.
We are actually pretty well stocked with soft drink cans. Outside of convenience stores, I’ve become a real bargain shopper for soft drinks at Safeway. They often have buy-two-get-two-free deals or buy-one-get-subsequent-cases-cheaper deals. So whenever they have those, I go crazy. They are encouraging you to buy as many as possible and I comply. It’s not like it’s going to waste. The result is that I keep some half-dozen flavors of stuff in the fridge. I used to try to avoid keeping anything more than one or two cans in the fridge for fear that I would just keep drinking, but I seem to have developed a natural stop-point where after I drink one I don’t want another one for a while. Sometimes I don’t want to drink a whole can at once. I’ve decided that given the cheapness and the fact that unhealthy food is no more wasted dumped into the sink than dumped into my mouth that I can poor out can remainders.
And on one last thing when it comes to soft drink prices, it is enormously irritating how cheap they make those 1-liter bottles. At the local truck stop, they’re only 10 cents more than a 20oz drink. Ten cents. What really had my head exploding was when they were cheaper. I was not as good then as I am now about just throwing away what I don’t want. So I would end up paying more to get less and would get quite irritated with that. Beyond which, those bottles are inconvenient on the whole due to their size. That’s less a factor for me now because I’m driving Clancy’s car which does not have cupholders able to accept a bottle of any size. I think it came out right before that was an absolute necessity.