ATLANTA -- The world's largest beverage company began airing a television commercial this week, broadcasting directly to consumers for the first time its efforts to help tackle obesity amid mounting public debate over soft drinks and their impact on public health.
The two-minute TV spot highlights Coca-Cola's record of developing, distributing and marketing low- and no-calorie beverage options. It also underscores that weight gain results from consuming too many calories in any food or drink, not just soda. The commercial also reminds viewers that "all calories count no matter where they come from" and that "if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight."
The move comes as New York City is set to enact a first-in-the-nation cap on the size of soft drinks sold at restaurants, movie theaters and sports arenas in March. And many local governments across the country are pushing to pass taxes on sugary beverages. | SEE STORY
Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer watchdog, called the TV campaign "a full-blown exercise in damage control." He charged that Coca-Cola would stop fighting soda taxes and legislation limiting serving sizes if the beverage giant were serious about helping reduce obesity.
Stuart Kronauge, general manager of sparkling beverages for Coca-Cola North America, defended the campaign as an effort to raise awareness about the company's lower-calorie drinks. He said the obesity problem can only be solved with "honest and collective action" by beverage companies, government, teachers, scientists, health professionals and parents.
The commercial debuted on Jan. 14 on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," FOX News' "The O'Reilly Factor," and MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."
Another commercial will debut on Jan. 16 before Fox's American Idol and air again during the Super Bowl pre-game show. Focused on Coke's front-of-package calorie labels, it shows people enjoying activities like walking and dancing to burn off the "140 happy calories" in a can of Coke.
In addition to posting calorie counts on the front of its cans and bottles, Coca-Cola has begun posting calorie information on its vending machines ahead of a regulation that will require soda companies to do so by 2014. | SEE STORY
All the growth in Coca-Cola's North American soda business over the past 15 years has come from low- and no-calorie drinks. Diet sodas now account for nearly a third of its sales in the U.S. and Canada. Despite the growing popularity of diet sodas, however, soda consumption in the U.S. has been on a steady decline since 1998, while "healthier" alternatives like sports drinks and bottled water have been growing.