Coca-Cola Pledges To Cut Ads to Kids, Display More Calorie Information

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Coca-Cola broadened its pledges to provide more calorie information to consumers and to stop advertising to children around the world, but the media was quick to scour the fine print of the company’s promises as the beverage leader tries to win over consumers. 

CEO Muhtar Kent announced on Wednesday, the brand’s 127th anniversary, that the company was taking a four-pronged approach to battling obesity, an issue that it has acknowledged lately in many ways but at the same time has attempted to deflect blame from its iconic sugary sodas.

As part of an initiative it’s calling Coming Together, Coca-Cola wants to communicate that it’s part of the solution, not the problem. The beverage giant and its local partners will label all packages with calorie details on the front, expand the availability of low- and no-calorie beverages in every market, support more physical activity programs, and stop advertising to children under 12.[more]

“Obesity is today’s most challenging health issue, affecting nearly every family and community across the globe,” a problem “which will take all of us working together and doing our part,” Kent stated in a press release.

So far, “our part” for Coke has involved a mix of measures acknowledging and attempting to trim its role in encouraging calorie consumption, and others—such as an ad campaign earlier this year—which have pushed back against the notion of carbonated soft drinks as the biggest dietary bogeyman.

In this new platform, the most significant move for sales is likely to be Coke’s plan to broaden distribution of low- and no-calorie versions of many of its brands around the world. While such products account for about one-third of the company’s sales volume in North America, they make up only 18 percent of volumes in Latin America and less than 10 percent of the company’s sales in China.

“The key here is to ensure that in every market where we operate to have no- or low-calorie beverages of our main brands available,” Kent said in a conference call, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal. “We do not have that consistently across the world today.”

Coke’s pledge to stop advertising to kids under 12 is likely to get more attention in the public sphere. There was immediate skepticism about what exactly that promise might mean. Bloomberg’s report viewed the move as rehashing an earlier pledge that the company apparently hadn’t fulfilled, commenting that “Coca-Cola first pledged not to advertise to children under age 12 globally in 2007.”

Meanwhile, others focused on the fine-print detail that Coke’s promise about kids actually means that it has pledged to advertise in markets where no more than 35 percent of viewers are children, similar to what it already does in the United States.

Kent and Co. will continue to have to balance corporate and social interests on obesity. After all, it’s the world Coke bought for itself by being so successful.

Below, Coca-Cola’s infographic outlining its global anti-obesity commitments:

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