by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Soft drinks

Sep 8 2020

Marketing ploy of the week—and for schools, yet

Sigh.

 

According to Business Wire, Kraft Heinz, the company that owns Capri Sun, is donating “5 Million Pouches of CAPRI SUN Filtered Water to School Districts as Schools Turn Off Water Fountains”

The brand apologizes for swapping juice for filtered water and captured reactions of kids in a light-hearted campaign

PITTSBURGH & CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–While every schools’ plan to return looks different this year, kids know that recess will be on recess, masks won’t just be for Halloween and that water fountains will be off limits. CAPRI SUN knows this is a hard time for kids, so to help students have a safe and fun way to get water this school year, the brand is swapping its juice for filtered water. CAPRI SUN is donating 5 million filtered water pouches to schools in the Chicagoland area and Granite City, where its factory is located.

The company is running a sweepstakes to accompany its donations.

Shouldn’t we be happy that the company is donating water, and not the typical Capri Sun sugary drinks?

No.  Why?

  • This is marketing aimed at children (children can’t tell the difference between information and marketing, unless taught).
  • This is marketing a sugary beverage brand to children (children are highly susceptible to this kind of marketing).
  • This is marketing packaged water to children (tap water is drinkable in most places in the U.S.  If not, schools should be providing readily available urns of water).
  • The total value of the sweepstakes prizes is $400 spread across five “winners”(pretty cheap)
  • Capri Sun markets its products as juice drinks (but typically have 10% or 0% juice)

I was curious to see what the company says about its products, and looked up this one.

Doesn’t this look healthy?  Here’s what’s in it (note: concentrates are a euphemism for sugars):

FILTERED WATER; SUGAR; PEAR AND GRAPE JUICE CONCENTRATES; CITRIC ACID; ORANGE, APPLE, AND PINEAPPLE JUICE CONCENTRATES; NATURAL FLAVOR.

One pouch contains 13 grams of added sugars.

These are ultraprocessed sugary drinks, best avoided or consumed only rarely, and never marketed to children.

Jul 30 2020

Income and sugary beverage consumption

A recent study confirms what we already knew: poorer people drink more sugary beverages than richer people.

This analysis suggests the richest 10% of families drink about 2.5 fewer sugary drinks a week than those in the poorest 10%.

These investigators found this relationship to hold up “even after taking into account things like education, race, gender, cognitive abilities and interest in nutrition.”

Drinking sugary beverages correlates with all those factors as well as with poor diets in general, overweight, the diseases for which overweight is a risk factor, and overall mortality.

I discuss the evidence for all that in my book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).

Jun 29 2020

Industry-funded research, Australia style

A reader in Australia writes that she “just came upon a doozy of an industry-funded paper.”

Title: Sales of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Australia: A Trend Analysis from 1997 to 2018, by William S. Shrapnel and Belinda E. Butcher.  Nutrients 2020, 12, 1016; doi:10.3390/nu12041016.

Conclusion: Major, long-term shifts are occurring in the market for non-alcoholic, water-based beverages in Australia, notably a fall in per capita volume sales of SSBs and an increase in volume sales of water. Both trends are consistent with public health nutrition strategies for obesity prevention and suggest that the downward trend in the percentage of dietary energy from added sugars in the Australian diet may be continuing.

Funding and Conflicts of Interest: This analysis was funded by an unrestricted grant from The Australian Beverages Council Ltd. 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.

So what’s the problem here (besides the usual questions about the accuracy of the “no role” statement)?

The clue comes from an article in Food Navigator Asia: “Not a taxing question: Australian sugar sweetened beverage consumption slumps as obesity rates continue to soar.”

The article quotes a representative of the Beverage Council:

Obesity is multi-factorial, the reason why people become overweight and then obese, is because of the lack of physical activity, a sedentary lifestyle, and also poor diet…a sugar tax alone would not reduce the obesity rates in the country, and was a complex challenge for the government to overcome.  The beverage industry is against a sugar tax, and SSB tax.  The evidence and science behind the effectiveness of a sugar tax is weak.

Comment: The point of this study is to produce evidence against the value of soda or sugar taxes, even though sodas are still the largest source of sugars in Australian diets, and taxes have been shown to reduce consumption in other countries.  When it comes to sugary drinks, less is better.

Just for fun, here’s Healthy Food America’s 2019 map of countries with soda taxes.

 

Jun 26 2020

Weekend reading: marketing of sugary drinks to minorities

The COVID-19 pandemic has pointed out how the higher risk of complications and death among members of minority groups.  The reasons are fairly well established.  Members of minority groups are more likely to:

  • Be overweight
  • Have diet-related risk factors: hypertension, type-2 diabetes, multiple metabolic problens
  • Live in high-pollution areas
  • Have asthma
  • Suffer from the daily stress of discrimination
  • Lack sick leave benefits
  • Have poor health care

The .latest report from Rudd Center on Food and Obesity Policy, Sugary Drinks FACTS 2020, highlights how sellers of sugary drinks target their products to minority populations.  The press release says that the report found:

  • In 2018, companies spent $84 million to advertise regular soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks on Spanish-language TV, an increase of 8% versus 2013 and 80% versus 2010.
  • Sports drink brands disproportionately advertised on Spanish-language TV, dedicating 21% of their TV advertising budgets to Spanish-language TV, compared to 10% on average for all sugary drinks.
  • Compared to White children and teens, Black children saw 2.1 times as many sugary drink ads and Black teens saw 2.3 times as many. Black youth exposure was particularly high for sports drinks, regular soda, and energy drinks.

Click here for the full report. 

The report’s main finding:

CNN has an excellent account of this, in which I am quoted.

Experts say soda companies have also taken a page out of the tobacco industry’s marketing playbook, by providing funding for many Black communities and endeavors “in ways that don’t look like advertising, like funding playgrounds in minority neighborhoods, minority community groups, and sponsorship of Black and Hispanic sports figures,” said Marion Nestle, who also authored “Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics.”  “These work,” Nestle said. “Minority kids identify soda brands with sports figures, and minority community groups find it hard to oppose soda company marketing when the companies have been so generous.”
The account refers to the CEO of Pepsi’s statement on the company’s efforts to address race.  I am quoted again:
“The great irony of Ramon Laguarta’s promises to counter PepsiCo’s conscious or unconscious racist practices in the company, its business, and communities is that none of them addresses targeted marketing,” said Nestle.
“The best thing Pepsi could do to improve the health of its customers would be to stop advertising and marketing to children and teenagers, especially those of color,” Nestle added.
Addition, June 29
US Right to Know also has an excellent article on this topic.
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.

 

Oct 9 2019

Sugar reduction in the UK: Taxes work, voluntary does not

I was alerted to this story by the FoodNavigator-USA headline: Sugar content in soft drinks cut by nearly a third as voluntary efforts fall way off target.

Public Health England’s latest progress report on the food and drink industry’s sugar cutting efforts reveal significant changes in areas where the sugar tax applies, but a disappointing lack of progress with the voluntary sugar reduction programme.

The Year 2 progress report finds:

  • The sugar in taxed drinks affected by the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) decreased by 28.8% between 2015 and 2018.
  • For non-taxed products, the reduction in sugar was only 2.9%.
  • Total sugar increased by 2.6%: the largest increases were for ice cream, candies, sweet spreads, and cookies.

Moral: if you want companies to reduce sugar in their products, tax them.

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.

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.