Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Sweet moves from Coca-Cola?

Coca-Cola (the British division rather than the whole organisation) has certainly bit the bullet in terms of announcing its plan to sell over 50% of Coke in UK as the no-sugar version. But that’s only by 2020, and the diet versions already make up 43% of its sales. A miserly 7% increase in 4 years is hardly going to make much of a dent in children’s teeth or obesity or diabetes.

And just in Britain.

Especially for a company like Coke with its massive resources in manufacturing, advertising, sales and logistics. An interesting project too in comparison by Coca-Cola Japan on installing Coke vending machines with 95% less electricity used during the day. Surely Coke is on the back foot in the soda wars with a UK sugar tax by 2018 and one already introduced in Mexico. And San Francisco introducing soda health warnings on billboards. Shouldn’t the Coke Group grab the bull by the horns and move 100% of all of its drinks range to no sugar and lo-cal versions? Coke has had problems before with product formulations with New Coke in the 1980’s and then the Vanilla and Cherry Coke versions.

But if 43% of the public is already drinking lo-cal versions then clearly the taste test has been passed and it’s simply a matter of adjusting the manufacturing and logistics mix to phase out the full-fat versions. If sales of Coke are already evenly matched then the healthier shift to Diet Coke would make it the de facto formula and taste of Coke – with added savings in branding and marketing. But at the very least Pepsi or even supermarket giants such as Walmart-Asda or Tesco or fastfood giants like McDonalds or Burger King, must be tempted to steal a march on Coke and boost their own healthy eating values by declaring their drinks or stock policy to be the sugar-free versions only.

While active consumerism will only increase the pressure on the soda market with publicity and lawsuits as with Big Tobacco for knowingly selling unhealthy products. Sugar cube labelling will have an effect: an astonishing 15 sugar cubes in Lucozade and an average of 7 sugar cubes in supposedly healthy or natural drinks such as Ribena, can only affect sales and health for Coke and other drinks makers. And a Coke and a (healthy) smile is what it should be all about all about.

Tim Garbutt, Sincerity PR @timg33

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