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The illusion of diversity
Philip Howard, Chris Duvall
Michigan State University, University of New Mexico
Project Description:
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 the authors 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. Overall, 987 varieties of soft drinks were recorded, under 195 brands and 102 parent companies.

The outcome is impressive and showcases how the notion of variety is truly an illusion in the soft drink industry. As the authors explain, this illusion "extends beyond obscuring ownership, as its products are primarily water and sweeteners."

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