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Michelle Obama to tout water in soda town

By   /   September 10, 2013  /   News  /   13 Comments

AP file photo

SHE’LL BE HERE THURSDAY: First lady Michelle Obama will be in Watertown, Wisc., on Thursday touting the benefits of drinking water.



By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Wash this political trip down with a little irony.

When first lady Michelle Obama pays a call on Watertown on Thursday afternoon to urge Americans to choose water over soda, she’ll be making her latest health pitch in a southern Wisconsin community that earns its living, at least in part, on the sweat of soda bottlers.

The corporate office of Wis-Pak Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of Pepsi-Cola and other leading soft drinks, is located in Watertown. Wis-Pak, with production facilities and warehouses throughout the central U.S.,  is the community’s 10th largest employer, according to the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce.


WATERTOWN: This southeast Wisconsin city does have very fine drinking water. It’s also home to two soda distributors. It remains to be seen whether first lady Michelle Obama will tout that fact when she pays a call on Watertown later this week to urge Americans to drink more water.

Watertown also is home to the 7-Up Bottling Co., a family-owned business that for 75 years has provided full-service beverage distribution and supplied equipment to businesses in Dodge, Jefferson, Waukesha and Rock counties.

Susan Dascenzo, executive director of the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce, could not provide employment figures of the two soda distributors.

Officials from the companies did not return phone calls Monday afternoon from Wisconsin Reporter. But a local Republican brought up the interesting political-business juxtaposition not long after the first lady’s office announced plans to unveil her new health effort at the Watertown High School.

The resident shook his head, wondering why Michelle Obama would want to visit a community where her husband was soundly beaten – twice – and pontificate on the evils of soda to the children of parents who pay their water bills bottling soda.

Dascenzo didn’t want to speak the issue of the first lady’s visit in a soda pop town like Watertown. She did say Wis-Pak and 7-Up, both long-time chamber members, are “pillars in our community.”

“I think that both companies will continue to adapt to the changing marketplace,” she said, noting that both manufacturers distribute water products. “I think that both 7-Up and Wis-Pak are listening to consumers and following the trends.”

The sugary beverage sector has been hard hit in health-conscious times amid a national battle against obesity. Leading that charge has been Michelle Obama and her Let’s Move! campaign, an initiative to drive down epidemic childhood obesity rates. Along the way, fast-food, cookie makers and sugary soda bottlers have become Public Enemy No. 1 in the anti-obesity effort.

Soda sales declined 0.6 percent last year through Dec. 30 to $28.7 billion at U.S. stores tracked by SymphonyIRI Group, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. In volume terms, sales dropped 1.8 percent.

“While Coke, Pepsi, and Dr Pepper Snapple have all aggressively expanded their portfolios to include faster-growing products like sports drinks and fruit juices, a prolonged drop in U.S. soda revenues would represent a serious blow. Soda represents nearly 25 percent of the U.S. beverage market. Its massive scale has also guaranteed profit margins for decades,” the Journal reported.

The first lady will be joined by, among others, actress Eva Longoria, and the Partnership for a Healthier America in launching the new “nationwide effort to encourage Americans to drink water.

“The new effort will bring together leaders from industry, entertainment, media and government around the simple message that water is one of the best and easiest choices every one of us can make every day,” states the Office for the First Lady in its travel guidance, released Monday afternoon.

White House press officials did not return phone calls from Wisconsin Reporter.

Elly Spinweber, director of communications and marketing for the Partnership for a Healthier America, said the effort is not about telling people not to drink soda.

“It’s about getting them to drink more water. We are working with companies across all verticals in the water space,” the public relations official said in an email to Wisconsin Reporter.

Dascenzo said Watertown does have excellent drinking water, and certainly the name of the community had something to do with the first lady’s visit. She said preparations have been ongoing for quite some time.

“Everybody is excited that the first lady chose Watertown. We are very honored,” the chamber chief said.

Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]

This story was originally published Sept. 9.



M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.

  • Sara

    I think it is ironic that all the eco-friendly people are not up in arms at the waste of jet fuel for a PR stunt again by the first family. We are all told to conserve energy while they have wasted more energy than 100s of families for vacations and useless travel around the world

  • knucklehead50

    all i can hope for is that the whole obama clan gets theirs. bunch of ghetto trash running this country, heavy sigh,

  • Taxilady88

    I wish SHE would get up and MOVE….anywhere but America!

  • Highlander

    I hope Pepsi and 7Up give their employees off to go protest wasted tax dollars!

  • smelltest

    Madison? Michelle took the wrong pandering points. Hint: Legalize Pot will get more financial support. If that fails, fall back on “student loan forgiveness”. What are her handlers thinking?

  • Loki Luck III

    Just another distraction for her husband’s agenda on Syria.

  • madj

    I live here. WIS-PAK bottles Klarbrun – wait for it – WATER!!!! IDIOT!

  • ShannonSzukala

    Eva Longoria supports Obama’s wife? Now I am disappointed.

  • MaureenABA

    it comes to combating obesity, balancing all calories with physical activity is
    key. Beverages can be a part of this balance – and the beverage industry is
    doing its part to promote this message and raise awareness. For instance, we
    voluntarily launched the Clear on Calories Initiative and the Calories Count
    Vending Program to help consumers make informed choices and live a balanced
    lifestyle. – Maureen at American Beverage Association

  • grandmary42

    I just don’t get her. What a fool!

  • john boy

    She out to get a job. Oh, but it couldn’t be as a Lawyer, cause she had to turn in her license to the State of Illinois for misconduct or some other foolishness.

  • Ross Banick

    Ummm… drink water? More water? More than what? One glass more than I drank yesterday? Or, is it one BOTTLE more than I feel like drinking today? Let’s forget about physiology. Let’s forget about the ADH response. As the President’s proxy, you don’t need to know anything about science. Just politics. What the politicians are really saying is: “The soda companies are paying us to tell you to buy more of their artificially bottled water.” OK. Why not just say so then? “Well”, Obama says, “They really want us to tell you to buy more bottled soda – but, my husband and his party can’t do that – for political reasons – so – they told me to tell you, as his “innocent” little unscientific proxy (who is going to question a non-scientific mother like me?), to buy more of the soda copanies’ bottled water instead.” Hmmm… “And, we’re cleverly disguising this as a very sophisticated and very scientific health message.” Hmmm… bottled water. health message. soda companies… OK. Why not tell me to breathe more air? Just one gulp more a day. It’s scientifically proven that air helps you in school, at work, and on the athletic field, to be your best. Breathe more air! Oh? What’s that you say? Nobody is selling bottled air? Darn. How about take more vitamins then? People must be selling vitamins, right? Oh, not the soda companies? Drat. So it’s not take more vitamins then. Well, what about eating a balanced diet? Still no? Really? I guess soda companies don’t sell balanced-diets. It’s either water or soda, I guess. That’s your only choice for a fifty-million dollar campaign paid for by my taxes (with party campaigns underwritten by the soda lobby of course). Oh my. So that’s it then. We’ll be spending millions on getting us to drink more … ummmm.. water. Yes. Water. Scientifically proven bottled water. The same stuff that comes out of the tap, only bottled, taxed, and sold. Politics. It never ceases to amaze me at how they declare the very old as brand new, and all this, just for money.

  • neilcdenver

    The best way to combat obesity is to place suitable surcharges on healthcare insurance based on actuarially validated costs. Washington’s Center for Disease Control has considerable data on the excessive healthcare costs.

    Why should any American pay for the excesses of others?