Coca-Cola is making major promises to fight obesity – ceasing advertisements directed at kids, slapping calorie counts on all its packaging – as the soda giant stares down a rising tide of concern over sugar-stuffed beverages.
On Wednesday, as part of an initiative it’s calling Coming Together, the Atlanta company made a series of pledges that also involved offering low- or no-calorie drinks globally and backing of physical activity programs.
Coca-Cola said its new rules, announced in part to commemorate the brand’s 127th anniversary, will apply in more than 200 countries where it does business.
“Obesity is today’s most challenging health issue, affecting nearly every family and community across the globe,” said Chief Executive Muhtar Kent in a statement.
But most of Wednesday’s oaths aren’t new.
Coca-Cola vowed back in 2009 to start labeling its packages with calorie details, a goal it now says it’s met. In October, along with rivals such as PepsiCo, the company said it would also list nutritional information on U.S. vending machines.
And in advertisements launched earlier this year in the U.S., Coca-Cola trotted out a parade of statistics about its various low- and zero-calorie products.
On Wednesday, the company said that 19 of its 20 top brands fit the bill or feature alternatives that do. Executives also mentioned the mini-cans with smaller portions that debuted in 2001.
But the part of Coca-Cola’s pledge likely to get the most attention is the promise not to market to audiences where children under age 12 make up more than 35%.
The company has often said in the U.S. that it does not buy advertising directly targeting such demographics, but now appears to have expanded the policy globally. Commercials on television, radio, print, the Internet and mobile phones are all affected.
It’s unclear what will become of the cuddly polar bear Coca-Cola likes to employ in its advertising.
But the company seems to be hustling to cover its bases in a year that has already seen an attempted ban on large sugary drinks by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, outcry over pop star Beyonce’s role as a Pepsi spokeswoman and concerns over the effects of caffeinated energy drinks on young consumers.