by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Coca-Cola

Mar 17 2020

Desperate for good news? Two cheery items

We need some good news.   I can offer two items.

1.  Coca-Cola says it will align executive pay to employee pay

Coca-Cola has agreed to “consider the wages it pays all of its employees when setting executive salaries”, for the purpose of aligning them more closely.

This happened as the result of action by the New York State Common Retirement Fund.  The Fund complained that CEO compensation has increased enormously while average wages have made meager gains, to the point where the ratio of CEO to worker compensation has gone up in some instances by nearly 1,400%.

According to Food Dive’s account

Following the agreement with the beverage giant, the fund, which is among the company’s top 50 shareholders with 9,275,387 shares as of the end of 2019, withdrew a shareholder resolution against the company. Coca-Cola agreed to add language to its upcoming proxy statement that said “the compensation approach used to set CEO and (named executive) pay” would be the same one it uses to determine compensation for the broader workforce.

Food Dive points out that

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey made about $18.7 million in 2019, according to a company spokesman. He was paid $16.7 million in 2018. As of April 1, 2019, Quincey’s base salary was increased 6.7% to $1.6 million “to align (it) with the competitive market,” the beverage company said in a recent proxy.

What this means in practice remains to be seen.  It’s hard to imagine that executives will get a pay cut but maybe employees will see a pay raise?  Let’s hope so.  In any case, cheers to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli for using the Retirement Fund’s clout.

2.  While it lasted, Chicago’s Soda Tax worked

Chicago passed a soda tax but then rescinded it four months later under pressure from the American Beverage Association, which whipped up public opposition.

Now, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, reports that during the months the tax was in effect, the sales volume of taxed sodas dropped by 27% in Cook County relative to St. Louis.  The net decrease was 21% after cross-border shopping was accounted for.

The tax raised nearly $62 million—in those four months—of which nearly $17 million went to a county health fund.

No wonder the American Beverage Association so strongly opposes soda taxes.

  • They reduce sales
  • They generate funds for health and social purposes
Mar 4 2020

Coca-Cola wants the 2020 dietary guidelines to say more about beverages

I am indebted to Margarita Raycheva, who writes for the highly informative newsletter, IEG Policy Agribusiness, for her recent article, which certainly got my attention: “Coca-Cola asks DGAC to develop detailed dietary recommendations for beverages” (this is probably behind a paywall).

Her article is about comments filed by Coca-Cola to the DGAC, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.  She did not provide a link to those comments, so I had to search for them.  This involved finding the DGAC comments page, searching for Coca-Cola, locating the company’s letter, and opening the pdf attachment.

The 12-page document reads like a highly sophisticated advertisement for Coca-Cola’s astounding number of beverage options, many of them low in sugar or sugar-free.

Over the last few years, Coca-Cola has been transforming to become a total beverage company that meets Americans’ fast-changing preferences across a wide array of beverage categories. We support the World Health Organization’s recommendation that people should limit added sugar to no more than 10% of their total daily calorie consumption1 and are rethinking existing recipes, package sizes and offerings to ensure we are helping consumers manage their daily intake of added sugar and other nutrients from our portfolio.  Today, we offer more than 800 drinks in the U.S. alone, ranging from soft drinks to juices, teas, coffee, dairy, sports drinks, water and more – more than 250 of which are low- or zero-sugar options. More than 40% of our sparkling beverage brands in the U.S. are now available in package sizes that are smaller than 8.5 ounces. We are increasing marketing support for low-sugar, no-sugar and unsweetened products…; we are introducing less sweet versions of classic soft drinks…; and we are accelerating our expansion into new beverage categories through the acquisition of brands….We are taking these actions because we recognize the critical role that we – and the entire industry – can play in advancing nutritional goals by using our scale for good.

Why do this?

• About 15% of energy comes from beverages
• Beverages, such as sweetened soft drinks, coffee and tea contribute more than 40% of daily added sugar intake
• Beverages, mainly milk and 100% juice, contribute over 40% of vitamin C and D intake and more than 20% intake of carbohydrates, calcium, potassium and magnesium
• Fruit intake (0.9 cup/day) is half of recommended levels (2 cups/day); 100% fruit juice contributes up to 24% of fruit intake in children, but decreases after adolescence
• Coffee and tea contribute up to 12% of potassium intake in adults
• Waters contribute up to 10% of calcium intake in adults

In other words, drink more (of our) beverages!

Coca-Cola’s proposals for how beverages can enhance diets:

  • Hydration
  • Nutrition and health
  • Enjoyment
  • Performance

What should the DGAC do?

By creating a framework that includes guidance for all types of beverages, the DGA can help drive Americans towards healthier versions of drinks they are typically consuming. Recommending limited
consumption or small shifts towards healthier beverages is more effective than simply discouraging the consumption of entire beverage categories.

The company’s proposals for how the DGAC can help it sell more beverages include sample statements like these examples [with my translations]:

  • Water should be the primary beverage choice [recommend our bottled water]
  • Milk plays an important role in development and health, and contributes essential nutrients to healthy eating patterns, including protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium [recommend our milk drinks]
  • When fortified, plant-based beverages may provide nutrients and support consumer choice, but generally should not be considered a replacement for dairy [please don’t recommend almond, soy, or oat milks–we don’t make any of those drinks]
  • Juice contributes to the public’s consumption of essential nutrients, phytonutrient and fruit/vegetable intake [recommend our juice drinks]
  • Coffee and tea are sources of health-promoting phytonutrients and are associated with reduced risk of rtain non-communicable diseases (NCDs) [recommend them; we sell those too]
  • Replace sugar-sweetened beverages >40 kcal that do not contribute significantly to nutrition needs with these beverages to reduce calorie and sugar consumption [if you must recommend avoing sugary beverages, at least recommend replacement with everything else we sell]
  • Sports drinks can be beneficial for individuals who engage in prolonged vigorous physical activity, or those sweating for prolonged hours due to warm to hot temperatures [OK, they have sugar, but recommend them anyway]

I can’t wait to see what the DGAC does with this impressively written document.

Not that it matters, really.  Recall: The DGAC submits the research report, but the agencies—USDA takes the lead this time—write the actual guidelines.

Mar 3 2020

The food politics of Coronavirus

Food politics connects to everything and Coronoavirus is no exception.  I’ve been collecting items.

For starters,  Coca-Cola gets its artificial sweeteners from China.  Oops.  Its supply chain is now disrupted.

Production and exports have been delayed for Coke’s suppliers of sugar alternatives used in the company’s diet and zero-sugar drinks, Coca-Cola disclosed Monday as part of its annual report.

“We have initiated contingency supply plans and do not foresee a short-term impact due to these delays…However, we may see tighter supplies of some of these ingredients in the longer term should production or export operations in China deteriorate.”

The primary artificial sweeteners Coca-Cola (KO) uses in its products include aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, saccharin, cyclamate and steviol gylcosides.

In its annual report, Coca-Cola indicated that it considered sucralose a “critical raw material” sourced from suppliers in the US and China. Splenda, a sucralose product used in Diet Coke with Splenda, is made in the US and not sourced from China.

This worries you?  Join the hoarders.  Some people are trying to make sure they have a 14-day supply of food in case they get quarantined.  This situation has gotten so out of hand that stores are running out of food.

The FDA wants everyone to calm down.  It has a web page on what’s happening with supply chains.  Most of this is about the supply of pharmaceuticals made in China, but here’s what it says about food:

We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

It’s hard to calm down if the situation affects you.  The organizers of Food Expo West, the natural products show scheduled for Anaheim, says COVID-19 fears could cut Expo West attendance by as much as 60% (the article links to official and unofficial lists of companies that have pulled out).

But every crisis has winners as well as losers.  The possible winners here?  Food delivery companies (as long as they can get supplies).

Stay tuned.

Update 3/3: Expo West has been postponed.

Jan 7 2020

Food politics issues for 2020: Science, Immigration, Taxes

Let’s start the new year with three articles in the New York Times about policies that might not seem to but do bear directly on food politics.

Science Under Attack: How Trump Is Sidelining Researchers and Their Work

 “The disregard for expertise in the federal government is worse than it’s ever been,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, which has tracked more than 200 reports of Trump administration efforts to restrict or misuse science since 2017. “It’s pervasive.”

At the USDA,

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced in June he would relocate two key research agencies to Kansas City from Washington: The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a scientific agency that funds university research on topics like how to breed cattle and corn that can better tolerate drought conditions, and the Economic Research Service, whose economists produce studies for policymakers on farming trends, trade and rural America.  Nearly 600 employees had less than four months to decide whether to uproot and move. Most couldn’t or wouldn’t, and two-thirds of those facing transfer left their jobs.

The reaction?  In August, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, appeared to celebrate the departures.

“It’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker,” he said in videotaped remarks at a Republican Party gala in South Carolina…”What a wonderful way to sort of streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

After ICE Raids, a Reckoning in Mississippi’s Chicken Country

The sweeping immigration raids on seven chicken plants in central Mississippi forced hundreds of Latino workers out and opened up jobs for African-Americans.  The article quotes one saying “it felt good to be earning $11.23 an hour, even if the new job entailed cutting off necks and pulling out guts on a seemingly endless conveyor of carcasses.”

How Big Companies Won New Tax Breaks From the Trump Administration

But big companies wanted more…The tax bills of many big companies have ended up even smaller than what was anticipated when the president signed the bill.

The article cites three beverage and food companies—Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola and Kraft Heinz—as among those participating in the lobbying blitz.

Such companies also deployed elaborate techniques that let the companies pay taxes at far less than the 35 percent corporate tax rate.”

Comment

Food politics is a full employment act.  We have plenty of work to do this year to create a healthier, more just, and more sustainable food system.

Nov 6 2019

Soda industry hypocrisy: recycling

I was fascinated to see this ad in the October 24 New York Times extolling Coke, Pepsi, and Dr Pepper’s commitment to improve recycling.

The ad says “We’re all in…But we need your help to change how America recycles.”

Sure.  Happy to.  But these companies are among the leading plastic polluters in the world, according to the latest audit.

So how about:

  1.  Stop producing so much waste in the first place
  2.  Stop fighting bottle recycling laws.

I just read the Intercept’s investigative report on Coca-Cola’s overt and covert opposition to recycling laws: “LEAKED AUDIO REVEALS HOW COCA-COLA UNDERMINES PLASTIC RECYCLING EFFORTS.”

As the article explains:

States with bottle bills recycle about 60 percent of their bottles and cans, as opposed to 24 percent in other states. And states that have bottle bills also have an average of 40 percent less beverage container litter on their coasts, according to a 2018 study of the U.S. and Australia published in the journal Marine Policy.

But bottle bills also put some of the responsibility — and cost — of recycling back on the companies that produce the waste, which may be why Coke and other soda companies have long fought against them.

Soda companies would much rather have us clean up the mess they make.

Mind you, I’m for cleaning up that mess and am happy to help.  But I also want bottle recycling laws that give us an incentive to take back all that waste.

 

Jul 23 2019

Coca-Cola wants the FDA to let it add vitamins to drinks

Thanks to Elaine Watson at FoodNavigator-USA for writing about Coca-Cola’s efforts to get the FDA to let it put vitamins in its drinks.  OK, its “healthier” drinks.

Historically, the FDA discouraged (putting it mildly) makers of candy and other junk foods from adding vitamins so they could be marketed as “healthy.”  This was known as the “jelly bean rule.”   Vitamins could not be added to jelly beans—or Coca-Cola.

It’s not really a formal rule, but here’s what the FDA says in 21CFR104.20:  ​

The Food and Drug Administration does not encourage indiscriminate addition of nutrients to foods, nor does it consider it appropriate to fortify fresh produce; meat, poultry, or fish products; sugars; or snack foods such as candies and carbonated beverages.

But what about the exceptions?

  • Gummy Bears: vitamins are be added to gummy bears, but these are typically sold as dietary supplements, not foods. They can do this because the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 authorized much looser rules for supplements.  Even though gummy bears are candy, the FDA isn’t going to fight this one.
  • Glaceau Vitamin Water:  Coca-Cola now owns this company. Some Vitamin Waters have as much sugar as a Coke.  They have Nutrition Facts labels and are marketed as foods, and look to me to be in violation of the jelly bean rule,.  The FDA hasn’t done anything about them, even though they are vitamin-enriched sugar water.  If you have any idea why not, please tell me.

For decades, Coca-Cola has tried to get the FDA to ease up on the jelly bean rule.  Now it is trying again.

Its argument?  The rule, by not allowing the addition of vitamins to sugary teas and coffees, stifles innovation.

Its assurance?  It won’t add vitamins to Coke, but will add them to its other, presumably “healthier” (meaning, I suppose, less sugary) beverages.

As I wrote earlier, candy makers are trying this trick too.

I wonder how long the FDA can hold out on this one.  I wish it luck.

May 22 2019

Annals of marketing: dairy-based functional drinks in Asia

A notice from FoodNavigator-Asia got my attention: Coca-Cola is partnering with the New Zealand dairy company Fonterra to produce “Nutriboost” products for Southeast Asia.

What are these?

  • Nutriboost Kids is targeted at children above three years of age, with each of its products being fortified with different occasion-based vitamins and minerals:…Morning Growth (fortified with vitamins for growth), Playtime (designed for stronger immunity) and Good Night (fortified with DHA for brain development).
  • Nutriboost To-Go is an energy-providing breakfast range enriched with oats and fibre.
  • Nutriboost Beauty is fortified with fitness and beauty-associated minerals like collagen and zinc.

Given the lack of evidence for significant nutritional benefits of any of these things, and the high prevalence of lactose intolerance among Asian populations, why this partnership?

  • Vietnam is the third largest dairy market in the ASEAN region.
  • To grow [sales] to 40 million or 50 million cases within the next five years.
  • Coca-Cola’s strategy is to evolve away from drinks with high sugar content.

The article doesn’t say how much money is going into this partnership, but both companies must think there is a big market for such products.

I’m not a fan of “functional” foods, alas.

Real food, anyone?

Apr 22 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: Coca-Cola again

Here is a summary of another funded study with results the funder must love.

Joint associations between weekday and weekend physical activity or sedentary time and childhood obesity.  Li N, and 19 additional authors for the ISCOLE Research Group. International Journal of Obesity (2019) 43:691–700.

Conclusions: Lower levels of MVPA [moderate to vigorous physical activity] or higher levels of sedentary time on either weekdays or weekend were associated with increased odds of obesity in 9–11 year old children in 12 countries.

Funding: The International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE) was funded by The Coca-Cola Company… With the exception of requiring that the study be global in nature, the funder had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review or approval of the manuscript.

Comment: This is another paper from the ISCOLE study funded by Coca-Cola, that seems to be aimed at casting doubt on the idea that sugary beverages might promote weight gain.  Instead, these results suggest that physical activity is a more important factor.  Of course physical activity is important for health, but doesn’t expend nearly as many calories as is usually needed to compensate for soft drink intake.

I learned about this study from a Weighty Matters blog post by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who runs a weight management center in Ottawa.  In his view, the ISCOLE study ignores evidence that childhood obesity is a determinant of physical activity, “not the other way around.”

He also questions the “no influence” statement in the funding disclosure, on the basis of

emails between ISCOLE investigators and Coca-Cola that not surprisingly suggests that these relationships have the very real potential to influence the framing of results even if funders [are] not involved in study design.

As I discuss in Unsavory Truth, the influence of food-industry funders appears to occur at an unconscious level; investigators do not recognize the influence and typically deny it.

As I also discuss in that book, Coca-Cola generously funded the ISCOLE study some years ago.  It has since changed its policy on research funding.