rebelling against low expectations

Sarah Kavanagh, Age 16: Took on Gatorade and Powerade and Won


(Upstart) — Few teens can lay claim to getting the attention of one Fortune 500 company, let alone two. Meet Mississippi teenager Sarah Kavanagh, who launched an online competition over an ingredient in both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola’s sports drinks. Both drink makers have removed it.

Coca-Cola is dropping an ingredient its Powerade sports drink, following in the footsteps of its rival PepsiCo., which made the same change to Gatorade last year. What’s surprising about this is not so much that it happened but one of the names associated with the ingredient changes at these two Fortune 500 companies.

Mississippi teenager Sarah Kavanagh was just 15 when she started stirring things up for PepsiCo and its Gatorade drink via a fall 2012 petition on which asserted that brominated vegetable oil, one of the ingredients listed is linked to a flame retardant, and is not approved for use in either the European Union or in Japan. She later did a separate petition making the same complaint about Coca-Cola’s Powerade drink brands.

A representative for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola confirmed Sunday that its Powerade brands are now “BVO-free,” but it was unclear when the change would be complete or how the drinks were reformulated. Meanwhile, this comes in the wake of PepsiCo saying last year that it would drop the ingredient from Gatorade, which according to industry tracker Beverage Digest commands 64 percent of the sports drink market.

Neither company has said that it made the changes because of Kavanagh or the petitions against each of their products, but the moves certainly came amid substantial negative customer feedback. The Powerade petition had more than 59,000 online supporters while the Gatorade one had 200,000-plus, according to an Associated Press report.

“Consumers are coming together quickly and efficiently to influence the world’s biggest beverage companies in an unprecedented manner,” Pulin Modi, senior campaign manager for told the AP.

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Photo courtesy of James Edward Bates for The New York Times.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • I’ve been looking at stuff like this too, such as coca colo. It’s surprising that one bottle contains 63 grams of sugar. Now if you drink it daily that’s enough to kill you…
    I have no idea why this type of stuff is even legal, its like a slow type of poison.

    Good for her and great article! 🙂

    God Bless,

    Liam Siegler

    • I agree. these types of drinks are probably dangerous. But I’ve seen worse poisons, like cigarettes and alcohol, which are legal. I don’t think it’s wise to ask the government to ban the use of things that only hurt the user (unlike atomic bombs), because of two things.
      One, in rebellion against authority, many people will just try to break the law for the sake of breaking it and use it more and then brake other laws because they rationalize doing wrong because they have already crossed the line for something small.
      Two, I think that giving the government more control is a little dangerous because they are human, and many are not Christians. So they may use the extra power to force issues that are against God’s Word.
      – Trent

  • I started looking in the things like this, such as coca cola. It was surprising to see 63 grams of sugar in one serving bottle. I can’t imagine how much sugar people who drink this daily have. An excessive amount of drinking products like these can eventually kill you. It like a slow kind of poison.

    Good for her and great article! 🙂

    God Bless,

    Liam Siegler

  • Keep believing this. These big corporations lie about everything. Do you HONESTLY think they removed it? No, they didn’t. If it was what made their products a success, they’re not going to remove it.

    • You could be right. You make a great point. We do have to be careful of what we decide to buy and consume. But in the end, it’s up to us what we deem acceptable risk. You know what I mean?

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →