Is Coke's anti-obesity campaign the real thing?
The company is making 4 'global commitments' to combat the epidemic. Critics see the strategy as just another effort to increase sales.
The Atlanta beverage giant made what it calls four "global commitments" to offer low- or no-calorie beverages in every market, provide nutritional information on the front of every package, support programs to encourage physical activity and not advertise its products to children younger than 12.
Not surprisingly, the CSPI wasn't impressed.
"Coca-Cola's campaign is a campaign to sell more Coca-Cola, and not a campaign to combat obesity," Jeff Cronin, a CSPI spokesman, wrote in an email to MSN Money, adding that the company is trying to head off government restrictions on soda sales. "Coke's main problem is that its core product causes obesity, diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, gout, and other health problems. Those problems can't be advertised away."
A Coca-Cola spokesperson couldn't be reached for comment.
When it comes to obesity, Coca-Cola is in a bind.
On one hand, the company can't hide from the fact that far too many people are overweight. A study released last year by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicted that nearly half of Americans will be obese by 2030 if they don't change their ways, as reported by Reuters. The economic burden of the disease to society is an eye-popping $147 billion to $210 billion.
Coca-Cola, however, has to defend its core product, which it can't from a nutritional perspective, especially the full-calorie varieties.
The one argument that Coca-Cola can point to is that people drink far less soda than they used to years ago. Per-capita consumption has dropped for eight straight years and now is at levels not seen since 1996, according to Beverage Digest data cited by Advertising Age.
Coke leads the soft drink market with a 17% share, followed by Diet Coke, which has a 9.4% share. PepsiCo's (PEP) Pepsi ranks third with an 8.9% share, Beverage Digest says. For Coca-Cola, it'll be hard to avoid the fact that fighting obesity and ensuring the growth of its core product are strategies at odds with each other.
Jonathan Berr holds a small position in Coca-Cola. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.
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