by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Coca-Cola

Jun 14 2021

Industry-funded study of the week: Coca-Cola

The study: Co-Occurrence and Clustering of Sedentary Behaviors, Diet, Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, and Alcohol Intake among Adolescents and Adults: The Latin American Nutrition and Health Study (ELANS)

Abstract: Poor diet, sedentary behaviors, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and alcohol intake seem to co-exist in complex ways that are not well understood. The aim of this study was to provide an understanding of the extent to which unhealthy behaviors cluster in eight Latin America countries. A secondary aim was to identify socio-demographic characteristics associated with these behaviors by country…. Among 9218 individuals, the most prevalent behaviors were transportation and occupation–sedentary time, SSB and alcohol intake.

Conclusions:  EBRB, particularly excessive time spent on sedentary-activities and SSB intake, commonly co-occurred in a representative sample of LA adolescents and adults. While unhealthy behavior varied across LA countries, nearly half of sampled subjects in Argentina and Colombia presented at least two risk factor behaviors.

Recommendation: Public health policies and behavioral-change strategies should target SB domains (screen-time, occupational, and transportation), diet intake, and SSB and alcoholic intake in combination [my emphasis].

Funding: The ELANS data collection was originally supported by the scientific grant from the Coca-Cola Company (Atlanta, GA, USA) and by grants/supports from the ILSI Latin America branches (Argentina, Brazil, Sur-Andino, Nor-Andino, and Meso-America), Sabará Children’s Hospital, PENSI Institute, University of Costa Rica, Pontifical Catholic University from Chile, Pontifical Catholic University Javeriana, Colombia, Central University of Venezuela/Foundation Bengoa, University of San Francisco, Quito, and Nutritional Institute of Investigation, Peru. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, analysis, the decision to publish, or the preparation of this manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

Comment: This is the first study I have seen funded by Coca-Cola since the scandal over its funding of  the Global Energy Balance Network (see my last post on it) and its announcement that it would no longer pay more than half the cost of a study (see policy statement).  This study is co-funded by ILSI (also industry) and universities (independent).  Coca-Cola is still funding lots of studies.  See here and here.

Why would Coca-Cola want to fund a study like this?  The answer lies in the recommendation.  My translation: Do not target sugar-sweetened beverages with tax or warning label policies alone.  If you want to improve unhealthy behavior, you have to target all of those behaviors—screen time, jobs, transportation, dietary intake, and alcohol—at the same time.

Jan 12 2021

Coca-Cola cuts 2200 jobs: profits vs. social values

Coca-Cola, according to an account in the Wall Street Journal, announced that it is cutting 2,200 jobs globally, including 1,200 in the U.S., as a result of the pandemic-induced closure of the places where its products are sold: restaurants, bars, movie theaters and sports stadiums.

The company expects to save $350 to $550 million annually as a result.

Let’s put these savings in context.  Coca-Cola brought in $37.27 billion in revenues in 2019.

For the company, the eliminated jobs mean “less decision making, less bureaucracy and ultimately less people.”

Corporations, as I have reported previously, have pledged to consider social values—like fairness to employees—in their day to day operations as much as they consider returns to stockholders.

If they are going to make such promises, they need to be held to them.

Hence: the global campaign for Corporate Accountability.

Dec 17 2020

Soft drink marketing in the Coronavirus era

A few more items about what soft drink companies are up to these days.

1.  Pepsi is releasing spa kits to ease your home-bound stress (this one was sent to me by Nancy Fink, who is keeping track of this sort of thing for the Center for Science in the Public Interest).

The kits include an exfoliating cola-scented Pepsi sugar scrub, a Pepsi Blue face mask and a Pepsi cola-scented bath bomb, according to the company’s email. With its latest branded merchandise, Pepsi can tap into trends around self-care that have emerged during a chaotic year.

What do you have to do to get one?  You have to help market Pepsi, of course

The company launched a sweepstakes on Wednesday to let consumers enter for a chance to win a limited edition Pepsi Spa Kit. To participate, consumers must tweet #PepsiSpa and #Sweepstakes and tag one of their friends, the company said.

2.  Coca-Cola sought to shift blame for obesity by funding public health conferences, study reports

The Coca-Cola Company worked with its sponsored researchers on topics to present at major international public health conferences in order to shift blame for rising obesity and diet related diseases away from its products onto physical activity and individual choice, according to a new report.

Academics in Australia and the US worked with US Right to Know, which lobbies for transparency in the food industry, to obtain and analyse emails between Coke and public health figures about events run by the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH).

They analysed 36 931 pages of documents to identify exchanges referencing Coke’s sponsorship of the International Congresses on Physical Activity and Public Health (ICPAPH) held in Sydney in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2014 [The study is here].

3.  Coke and Pepsi join Nestlé (no relation) as “Plastic Polluters of the Year

This is the third year in a row they have won this title from Break Free From Plastic. which demands corporate accountability for plastic pollution.  It’s always good to keep this in mind, along with soda companies opposition to bottle recycling laws.

Dec 14 2020

Food industry marketing ploy of the week: exploiting Covid-19

I am indebted to BeverageDaily.com, for this item(and to Lisa Young for sending it to me).

Coca-Cola says:

In a year defined by a global pandemic, Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign is dedicated to ‘holiday heroes’ – those who have gone the extra mile by dedicating time, energy and attention to their friends, families and communities…For 100 years, Coca-Cola has been known for bringing magic and cheer to the Christmas holiday…Now, alongside its iconic Santa and polar bears, Coca-Cola is celebrating the season by putting the spotlight on everyday heroes. Coca-Cola wants to help people feel connected, and to celebrate friends, family and people in the community who deserve an extra special gift of things, especially in an unprecedented year.

This, recall, is about marketing a sugary beverage strongly associated with poor diets, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease, all well established as risk factor for poor outcomes of Covid-19.

Here’s what MarketingDive says the campaign is about.

Comment: Educators, doctors, and caregivers ought to be advising everyone they deal with to do what they can to consume sugary beverages infreuently, and in extremely small amounts, if at all.   And that’s good advice for everyone in this holiday seaseon.

Jul 20 2020

Conflicted nutrition interests in the midst of Covid-19

Simón Barquera, who directs the Center for Research on Nutrition and Health at the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca, sent me a copy of this letter, which he found on Twitter (but it’s no longer there):

It’s from the president of the Mexican Society of Nutrition and Endocrinology thanking Coca-Cola for donating Personal Protective Equipment to deal with Covid-19.

The Mexican Nutrition Society has a cozy relationship with Coca-Cola?

I wonder what that’s all about.

Conflicts of interest anyone?

Jul 7 2020

Coca-Cola drops Odwalla

Coca-Cola, which bought Odwalla juices in 2001, is discontinuing the brand and getting rid of 300 jobs and 230 trucks.

Why?  People aren’t buying it: too much sugar, and too much competition.

This is the end of a long saga.  Odwalla started out selling unpasteurized juices and was doing fine until it got too big.

Against company policy, it used apples that had fallen on the ground to make apple juice.  Some were contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, which carried a shiga toxin that caused illnesses and deaths.  In 1998:

Odwalla, based in Half Moon Bay, Calif., pleaded guilty to 16 counts of unknowingly delivering ”adulterated food products for introduction into interstate commerce” in the October 1996 outbreak, in which a batch of its juice infected with the toxic bacteria E. coli O157:H7 sickened people in Colorado, California, Washington and Canada. Fourteen children developed a life-threatening disease that ravages kidneys.

Odwalla paid a $1.5 million fine and was put on probation.  Coca-Cola bought the company anyway.

Food safety lawyer Bill Marler, who represented some of the victims, some of whom have lifelong complications, says  Good riddance to bad rubbish.

During the course of the litigation, we uncovered that Odwalla had attempted to sell its juice in 1996 to the U.S. Army – no, not as a biological weapon – but to be sold in base grocery stores to our men and women service members and their families. The Army rejected the product – because it was not fit for military consumers.

His post includes the Army’s letter of rejection:  “We determined that your plant sanitation program does not adequatel assure product whoolesomeness for military consumers.”

It also includes some emails suggesting that Odwalla did not want to test for pathogens because they might find some:  “IF THE DATA is bad, what do we do about it.  Once you create a body of data, it is subpoenable.”

I wrote about the Odwalla events in my book, Safe Food.

The Odwalla outbreak provided convincing proof that unpasteurized and uncooked “natural” foods could contain the same pathogens as meat and poultry if they had the bad luck to come in contact with contaminated animal manure or meat.  For the industry, the lessons were mixed.  If food companies failed to reduce pathogens, their liability costs could be substantial–in money, time, legal penalties, and reputation—but these problems could be temporary and soon overcome (p. 99).

The end of a saga, indeed.

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.