The Mad Med series finale is getting rave reviews and I agree with them. It was an epic end to a fantastic show. Sure, I could have done without the weepy dude embrace at the end of the show but I suppose Don Draper was due a sob or two and who can begrudge such a damaged man a hug.

But what struck me most about the last show was how it reminded me that Americans didn’t used to be so cynical about big businesses—specifically soda companies.

Consider the last scene—that iconic “I’d like to buy the world a coke” commercial (is anyone else having trouble getting that tune out of your head?), which ostensibly Don Draper came up with after his return from Kumbaya-land. That scene served as a reminder of just how positive Americans used to think about soda—specifically Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola and other soda companies used to be thought of as true American symbols. Perhaps because it showed America as a wealthy country where its citizens could choose beverages for enjoyment, not just to sustain life.

Today, soda companies (and large food companies, and chain restaurants, and grocery stores) are pilloried daily with hyperbolic statements about consumer products being toxic and poisonous and cancer-causing, and obesity-causing and…how many negative adjectives or phrases can I think of to mimic how the alarmists talk about soda and certain food items?

Yet, so often, we forget the good things about some of these big companies—the charitable works they do to support communities, the studies they fund (often on their own products), the foundations they create to help fund worthy causes, the buildings and other infrastructure projects they often fund to build up American cities. And in this “bad news” culture, we often forget that contrary to what the alarmists say, these companies are desperate to please their consumers. They listen to their consumers.

For instance, just today, a coalition of soda companies provided more proof that they’re listening and that the market works far better than government strong-arming to improve people’s food and beverage choices.

This coalition, made up of the Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association, plans to launch an initiative in four Los Angeles, California and Little Rock, Arkansas area communities that would, by 2025, reduce by 20 percent per person the number of calories consumed through drinking soda. The interesting part of this initiative is that these companies are actually targeting areas where their market research shows there’s been little interest in lower-calorie beverages or smaller serving-beverages. 

According to a press release put out by the American Beverage Association, the companies will make these lower-calorie and smaller-portion beverages more available in stores and will provide incentives to consumers to try these options and create displays that show calorie information.

These companies understand that people are demanding lower calorie beverages and alternatives to full-sugar soda. It isn’t government action making them do this; it’s listening to their consumers and corporate responsibility—two things for which soda companies rarely get credit.