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An Open Letter to Coca-Cola

  • Blog Post by: Kevin Winge
  • June 2, 2013 - 2:03 PM
Dear Coca-Cola:
 
Give me a break. Do you really expect us to believe that the world’s most valuable brand suddenly, genuinely cares about obesity? Or could it be that the growing drumbeat of taxing sugary drinks, and efforts like those of Mayor Bloomberg to limit the size of soft drinks, has you and members of the American Beverage Association running scared.
 
In the United States, the main source of calories comes from sodas and other sweetened drinks. Not surprisingly, 26% of Americans are obese and 36% are overweight. Now you, Coca-Cola, want us to “come together” to do something about obesity.
 
So, what exactly are you doing in this global battle to fight obesity?
 
First, you are going to offer low- or no-calorie options for beverages in every market. That’s very big of you Coca-Cola. You will give consumers more options to purchase your product, including bottled water, in parts of the world where tap water is generally safe, and free, to drink. That’s a courageous step in reducing global obesity and its subsequent health issues.
 
Next, you are taking the bold move to feature the number of calories in each product – right there on the front of the can or bottle. If you truly cared about obesity, how about putting a different message on your packaging? What about something that actually might get consumers’ attention like: “This product can make you fat and may cause heart attacks, diabetes and osteoporosis.” How’s that for transparency, Coca-Cola?
 
The third action you are committing to do is supporting physical activity programs and getting three million people “to rediscover the joy of being active.” Admirable, but it’s estimated that four billion people drink Coke. Any thoughts of scaling up your commitment to exercise to, I don’t know, maybe at least reach 1% of your global consumers?
 
Finally, you have resolved to not directly advertise your products to children under the age of 12. What a carefully crafted resolution, Coca-Cola. You tell us you won’t “advertise” your products “directly” to kids under 12-years-old. Nice job of leaving the door open to continue to market sugary drinks to children “indirectly” through commercials they will still see on TV, billboards and, of course, at sporting events.
 
When carefully considered, your four actions to beat obesity comes down to just another marketing campaign intended to maintain your position as the world’s leading beverage company. The best thing you could do to reduce obesity, Coca-Cola, is to water down some of your products the way you have watered down this anti-obesity media campaign. 

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