This is quite a change from the promotion of its soft drinks as a route to happiness.
On Monday, 14th January 2013, the Coca-Cola company started broadcasting a two-minute video called "Coming Together" on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC in an attempt to become one of the leaders in the debate regarding soda consumption's link to being overweight.
The company explains that it has a record of providing fewer calories, and stresses that gaining weight comes from consuming too many calories, and not just drinking sodas.
The two-minute advertising spot, the company claims, is aimed at encouraging people to bear in mind that all calories count in bodyweight control, including those in Coca-Cola drinks, all foods and other beverages.
The ad reflects growing pressure as study after study has demonstrated links between the consumption of sugary soft drinks and obesity/overweight. In New York City, authorities have initiated a limit on the size of soft drinks that restaurants, sports arenas and movie theatres are allowed to sell. Cambridge, Mass. appears to be following suit.
Researchers reported in NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine), the September 21, 2012 issue, that sugary drinks can make people more genetically susceptible to becoming obese.
The company adds that the purpose of this campaign is to explain clearly to the public that Coca-Cola is committed to delivering a wider choice of drinks, including low- and no-calorie beverages. Clearly communicating the calorie content of all its contents is a top priority.
On Wednesday 16th January, a second advertising spot will debut on American Idol. This spot is called "Be OK", and clearly states that a can of regular Coca-Cola contains 140 calories. The ad also invites viewers to have some fun using up those calories.
Stuart Kronauge, General Manager, Sparkling Beverages, Coca-Cola North America, said:
"We are committed to bring people together tohelp fight obesity. This is about the health and happiness of everyone who buys our products and wants great-tasting beverages, choice and information. The Coca-Cola Company has an important role in this fight. Together, with willing partners, we will succeed."
Some say Coca-Cola's move is just damage controlThe Center for Science in the Public Interest issued the following communiqué:
"The soda industry is under siege, and for good reason. This new advertising campaign is just a damage control exercise, and not a meaningful contribution toward addressing obesity.
What the industry is trying to do is forestall sensible policy approaches to reducing sugary drink consumption, including taxes, further exclusion from public facilities, and caps on serving sizes such as the measure proposed by Mayor Bloomberg."
Coca-Cola says its commitment to health is genuine and wide-rangingCoca-Cola says that it is already helping promote and support physical activity initiatives in the community. Below are some of the programs the company supports:
- Coca-Cola for Fitness - the company says that this program will be expanded in major cities during the coming twelve months. Launched in Chicago during the fall of 2012, Coca-Cola Troops for Fitness gets military veterans who have returned to teach military-style fitness classes to families, with such moves as push-ups, sit-ups, calisthenics, pull-ups as well as advice on nutrition.
- America is Your Park - vote for your favorite park. Americans are encouraged to go outdoors and vote for the park they like the most. This is a collaboration between Coca-Cola, the National Park Foundation, and America's State Parks and National Recreation and Park Association.
A grant of $100,000 was made by Coca-Cola for the winning park, as well as awards to three other winning parks. The grants are aimed at restoring, rebuilding or improving activity areas in parks where people are active and play. The company says that it has donated almost $15 million in such schemes over the years.
- Triple Play - launched by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2005 with financial help from Coca-Cola. It encourages children to eat healthily, become more physically active and increase their ability to take part in healthy relationships.
- School Fitness Centers & Governor's Physical Fitness Challenge - a joint project between the National Foundation for Governor's Fitness Councils, the American College of Sports Medicine and Coca-Cola. The company awarded $5 million to set up 100 new fitness centers in schools across the country over a five year period. The centers, which will be unbranded, will have new fitness equipment and provide over five million workouts per year. Over 1.4 million students have benefited from the pilot initiative.
Coca-Cola's commitment to inform consumersCoca-Cola says that it is committed to providing clear and fact-based nutritional information to help consumers make an informed choice, "choices to suit all occasions and lifestyles". They add that their commitment includes complying to the right policies in schools and the marketplace.
Marketing at children - Coca-Cola says that from now on, it will not advertise directly at audiences which consist of more than 35% children under the age of 12 years. This policy applies to the following media - TV, radio, mobile phone, the Internet, and print.
Nutrition labeling - in 2009, Coca-Cola was the first soft drinks company to make front-of-pack calorie-labeling a worldwide commitment for nearly half of all its products by 2011 - this target was met.
In 2005, Coca-Cola was the first soft drinks company in America to place dual nutrition labels on their regular calorie, single-serve packages, with data not only included on the 8 fl oz servings, but also for the entire package (up to 20 fl oz).
In an online communiqué, Coca-Cola wrote "..we are united with America's beverage companies and important leaders and organizations in instituting meaningful, significant and measurable initiatives to help address this issue and will continue to build on these efforts."
- School Beverage Guidelines - along with President Clinton, in 2006 Coca-Cola, the American Beverage Association, and other drinks companies in the USA helped set up the national school beverage guidelines by voluntarily changing drinks offered in primary and secondary schools. Since 2005, the drinks industry has reduced the number of calories delivered to schools by 90%.
A study published in the August 2012 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine explained that compared to four years before, 50% fewer students could buy regular soda in schools. However, the authors stressed that sugar-laden soft drinks are still too widely available.
- Clear on Calories - Coca-Cola, along with the rest of the drinks industry in the USA, supported First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative with a "Clear on Calories" commitment, by placing calorie details on the front of nearly all drink containers.
- Calories Count Vending Program - this program aims to provide more low calorie drinks in vending machines.
Written by Christian Nordqvist