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    Archive for the ‘Coca Cola’ Category

    Coca Cola’s “Q&A” is 100% “PR” Spin

    A few days ago, deep into a clean-up project in my apartment, I came across a small, 42-page “Q&A” booklet for Coca Cola’s Live Positively campaign.

    Subtitled “Your Refreshed Everyday Pocket Guide to Our Products and Our Commitment to Sustaining the Environment and Community,” it was one of the souvenirs I picked up at this year’s American Dietetic Association conference and expo.

    The booklet – also available online – is a crash course in Big Beverage’s most common smoke-and-mirror tactics: vehement emphasis on physical activity, avoidance of nutrition issues, a framework of health centered solely around obesity and caloric intake, and rampant use of vague terms like “balance” and “moderation”.

    Let’s dissect…

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    When “Documentary” Means “Glorification”: CNBC on Coca-Cola

    Coca-Cola_Logo_2003Earlier this week, I caught a rerun of a CNBC documentary (which premiered last November) titled “Coca-Cola: The Real Story Behind The Real Thing”.

    It comes as no surprise that a channel devoted to business and marketing essentially made an aspirational “how-to” piece targeted to MBA students, heaping endless praise on the soft drink giant (buzzwords like “global presence” and “brand loyalty” abounded) for its world dominance.

    Alas, the documentary still contained a few gems, detailed below:

    1. Chief Financial Officer Gary Fayard, responding to his company’s obesity and health-related backlash:

    There’s nothing bad in this bottle [of Coca Cola].  It’s pretty much all-natural.  It’s the original energy drink.”

    While there are certainly no lethal ingredients in Coca-Cola, there are questionable inclusions.  Firstly, there are copious amounts of sweetener (whether cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, a beverage containing 40 grams of sugar is far from healthful).  Then, there’s phosphoric acid (which leaches calcium from bones).

    The “all-natural” moniker is meaningless.  Poisonous mushrooms are natural; that doesn’t mean they are edible and/or healthful.  Poison ivy is also “all-natural,” but certainly not a plant you want to cuddle with.

    Coca-Cola (which has been around since the late 19th century) is the original energy drink?  News to me.  I award coffee with that moniker, which has been consumed worldwide for thousands of years.

    2. Coca-Cola executives prefer to refer to their sodas as “sparkling beverages”.  Sad thing is, you know some advertising executive was able to pay off his mortgage in one fell swoop simply because they came up with that euphemism.

    3. Coca-Cola executives apparently believe that if “people want to have a little moment of joy,” all they have to do is reach for a bottle of Coca-Cola.

    4. Coca-Cola has an official historian — an employed staff member who, since 1977, has been safekeeping $60 million worth of print ads, bottles, and other memorabilia. Alas, Coca Cola’s secret formula is locked in the vault of an Atlanta bank.

    5. Coca-Cola claims to have created “the modern image of Santa Claus”.  As the ever-trusty folks at Snopes.com inform us, that is not true.  Unfortunately, the claim was presented as undisputed fact in the documentary.

    6. A Coca-Cola executive gleefully recalls that Coca-Cola was the only soda available to soldiers in World War II.  Consequently, “11 million GIs came back with a keen loyalty to Coke.”  Sure, they also came back with severe cases of PTSD, but, hey, Coca-Cola picked up 11 million loyal customers!

    This particularly disturbed me.  Here is a Coca-Cola executive attempting to tug at heartstrings by associating his product with patriotism and support of the troops, all while ultimately caring about “consumer loyalty” and heightened collective awareness of his brand.

    7. A good third of the documentary focused on Coca-Cola’s presence in South Africa.  We witness one shopkeeper (whose shop is his front porch in the slums) travel many miles to pick up a supply of Coca-Cola off of a distribution truck, which he then places in a wheelbarrow before heading back through raw sewage and muddy roads to his store.

    The President of Coca Cola’s South Africa Business Unit manages to keep a straight face while stating that given the problems that these economically disadvantaged people face, they “need an extra dose of optimism” in the form of Coca Cola.  Insert sound of needle scratching record HERE.

    He also claims that “everybody who touches the product” makes money.  We are then treated to images of local residents buying Coca Cola, and testimony from shopkeepers that one of the first things people in this small community do when they earn money is buy the ubiquitous fizzy brown soda.

    An extremely rosy picture, but one that I am sure has a kernel of truth in it.  However, the documentary completely glosses over the fact that Coca Cola’s ubiquitousness around the world often comes at a price for local farmers and the economy in third world countries.

    Towards the end of the documentary, we hear from more Jurassic executives who giddily talk about the 900 million “potential customers” around the world who they have yet to introduce to their product, and their desire to “make sure [Coca Cola] is within reach.”

    As the credits roll, it becomes perfectly clear that CNBC’s promise to “pull back the curtain on the planet’s most recognizable brand” fell flat.

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    When a Can of Soda Just Isn’t Enough…

    photo

    Many thanks to Small Bites reader Katherine Bauer for sending me the accompanying image of a Coca-Cola billboard she spotted on her way to the supermarket.

    While Coca-Cola executives point out the new bundle of two 50-ounce bottles is meant for small families, I find it interesting that the billboard makes no mention of that fact.

    For all we know, the “enough for your meal” tagline can be directed to an individual consumer.  Even if two people split a 50 ounce bottle of soda with dinner, that’s an additional 300 calories per person!

    As Kate pointed out in her e-mail to me, the advertising campaign is confusing.

    Is Coca-Cola implying that BOTH 50-ounce bottles are enough for “your next meal”?  Or just one?

    On the positive side, the folks at Coca-Cola will soon be launching an 8.5 ounce bottle, thereby creating a more calorically-reasonable alternative to the current 20-ounce, 240-calorie bottle available at so many stores and delis.

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    In The News: That’s More Like It

    The Los Angeles Times shares encouraging news today — “Coca-Cola Co. and joint-venture partner Nestle agreed to pay $650,000 in a settlement with 27 states over claims that Enviga green tea burns calories, resulting in weight loss.”

    If you are not familiar with Enviga, it is a flavored sparkling green tea in the Nestea line of products.

    The claim? Drinking three cans per day helps burn anywhere from 60 to 100 calories.

    Coca Cola based that claim on the presence of EGCG, an antioxidant in green tea which has been the focus of several metabolic and weight loss studies (here is my take on the research literature.)

    The man behind this lawsuit is Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who added that moving forward, “any marketing of Enviga or a similar beverage that uses the terms “the calorie burner,” “negative calories” or “drink negative” must clearly disclose that the product doesn’t lead to weight loss without diet and exercise.”

    Small Bites salutes — and thanks — you, Mr. Blumenthal.

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    In The News: Can Sodas Succeed with Stevia?

    More Stevia controversy.

    This time, it revolves around two soft drink giants — Coca Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. — desperate to gain back customers after experiencing tumbling sales this year.

    “Coca-Cola Co. will begin selling products made with [the] new zero-calorie sweetener despite no official nod from [the Food & Drug Administration], but rival PepsiCo Inc. said Monday it won’t follow suit,” reports today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

    Pepsi actually has two Stevia-sweetened drinks on deck, but is waiting to launch them until the sweetener receives a “generally recognized as safe” moniker from the FDA.

    “A no-calorie, all-natural sweetener is a huge opportunity for the beverage industry,” Morgan Stanley spokesperson Bill Pecoriello said at today’s Beverage Digest conference.

    A huge opportunity to trick consumers into thinking these beverages are “healthy” and perhaps even a viable solution to the obesity problem?

    My concern is that among all this Stevia joy, the main problem is being overlooked: soda — diet or not — is usually consumed with unhealthy foods.

    Most people usually pair it up with chips, pizza, fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, and other high-calorie fare.

    Complementing four slices of pepperoni pizza with a Stevia-based, rather than Splenda-based, soda isn’t exactly that great of an improvement.

    And although stevia is the least Frankenstein-ish of non-caloric sweeteners, all sodas contain phosphoric acid, which isn’t something you want to consume on a daily basis.

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