I’m doing a prerecorded online presentation to the V Congresso Nacional de Alimentos e Nutrição, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, at 8:00 p.m. on my book Unsavory Truth (Um Verdade Indigesta). Information about the conference is here. It runs from October 4 to 8.
Annals of public relations: the food industry vs. obesity
Yesterday was a blitz day for food industry public relations.
PR #1. Coca-Cola placed a full-page ad in the New York Times: “Beating obesity will take all of us.”
Coke’s promises [with my comments]:
- Offer low- or no-calorie drinks in every market [but focus advertising on the sugary ones].
- Provide transparent nutrition information, listing calories on the front of all packages [but per serving, not total for the big ones]
- Help get people moving [divert attention from the caloric effects of sodas]
- Market responsibly, including no advertising to children under 12 anywhere in the world [I will believe it when I see it]
“Obesity won’t be solved overnight,” Coke says, but we know that when people come together around shared solutions, good things happen.”
Like drinking less Coke?
PR #2. The food industry’s Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation issued a press release to say that its member companies have more than met their stated goal of reducing 1.5 trillion calories in the marketplace in the United States. Indra Nooyi, HWCF Chair, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, said:
Our industry has an important role to play in helping people lead healthy lives and our actions are having a positive impact…We see continued opportunities to give consumers the choices they’re looking for and to work collaboratively with the public and non-profit sectors on initiatives that enable continued progress.
Really? Where are the data? On what basis does the group make this claim? The press release says that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is doing a study but the results won’t be released until the fall.
Hence: Public relations. As I noted in a previous post on this promise in 2010.
What are we to make of all this? Is this a great step forward or a crass food industry publicity stunt?* History suggests the latter possibility. Food companies have gotten great press from announcing changes to their products without doing anything, and every promise helps stave off regulation.
Addition: I forgot to post the accompanying report from the Hudson Institute about how low-calorie beverages are driving all the sales growth for soda companies, at least in the US.