Pouring on the fat – New York, USA

Key Insights

  • Adverts on transport system
  • Curbing sugary-drink consumption
  • Awareness of sugar in fruit juice


High consumption of sugary drinks in New York contributes to diet-related ill-health, such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, and tooth decay. In 2009 the City ran a series of shock-provoking adverts on public transport to raise awareness of sugar-content in soft drinks and to raise awareness that excess calories are stored as fat. The initial campaign was followed in 2013 and 2015 with new adverts on consumption of fruity beverages by children. As one of several strategies, the adverts contributed to some decline in sugary drink consumption, but the impacts were not seen across all socio-economic groups.


This case study version is from the Menu of Actions (2019). Suggested citation: Halliday, J., Platenkamp, L., Nicolarea, Y. (2019) A menu of actions to shape urban food systems for improved nutrition, GAIN, MUFPP and RUAF.

Pouring coke in glass, Shutterstock/AnotherPerfectDay

The action and its aims

New York City ran a series of shock-provoking advertising campaigns on public transport called ‘Pouring on the fat’, which aimed to build understanding that excess calories consumed are stored as fat. The first ads, to raise awareness of sugar content in soft drinks, featured a man pouring, then drinking, a cup of fat.

When it was introduced

The campaign first ran for three months in 2009. It was followed up in 2013-14 and 2015 with new adverts targeting children’s consumption, with a specific focus on sugar content of fruity beverages, which many people believe to be a healthy option.

Why it was needed

The campaign was considered necessary because of high consumption of sugary drinks in the city, which has an impact on diet-related ill health, such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, and tooth decay.

Who initiated it, who is involved

The campaign was run by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Adverts were designed by agency Bandujo. The cost of the subway advertising space was covered by the Fund for Public Health in New York, a non-profit organisation that exists to connect the city with public and private sector partners for health promotion.

Impacts to date

The action is one of several strategies to reduce sugary drink consumption that have been implemented in New York. The cumulative impact was a steady decline in the number of New Yorkers drinking one or more sugary drink a day between 2007 and 2013. From 2013, however, the impact has stagnated and consumption remains highest among Black and Latino residents.

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