Retailers are expecting many angry customers once the Philadelphia Beverage Tax takes effect on Jan. 1. According to the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA), the 1.5 cents per ounce tax on sweetened beverages will cause many products to double in price, putting a financial strain on consumers.
“Items such as juice drinks, sodas, teas, sports drinks and fountain sodas will no longer be affordable for many Philadelphia residents,” said David McCorkle, PFMA president and CEO. “This unfair tax will really hurt Philadelphia consumers, who are already challenged to pay for groceries.”
Nearly 4,000 products will be subject to the tax. For example, a gallon of Turkey Hill Lemonade will go up from $2.68 a gallon to $4.60, and a 64-oz. bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice will increase from $2.68 to $3.70.
McCorkle said the tax is assessed on product distributors, who will have no choice but to increase the price of the products.
“Our members expect to lose business due to this tax,” said McCorkle. “Consumers are going to leave the city to buy their groceries. It will mean lost customers and business for city retailers and could leave them with tough decisions to lay off employees or even close.”
Despite concerns and protests by citizens, beverage manufacturers, retailers and unions, the Philadelphia City Council passed the country’s first broad-based beverage tax in June.
PFMA members joined the beverage industry in a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia in September, challenging its authority to implement a new tax since Pennsylvania already has a soft drink tax. This month, a judge dismissed the case disagreeing with all the points in the suit. The industry plans to appeal but, in the meantime, retailers are moving forward with the tax requirements.
“Our retailers will comply with the tax, but they are very concerned about the impact it will have on the communities they serve,” McCorkle said.