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The Bubbling Debate Over Coca-Cola and Obesity

Posted At: February 15, 2013 5:00 P.M.
by Kaitlyn Honnold

In early January the makers of carbonated nostalgia, Coca-Cola Company, launched the “Coming Together” and “Be Ok” ads to tackle one of our nation’s biggest issues — obesity (no pun intended).

However, there is more to this campaign than the ad portrays. Critics across the Internet are clinging to the controversy. Just read the YouTube comments, which range from those supporting the soda giant to those making comments you wouldn’t show your grandma. (There are also some commenters who simply want to know who sings the song in the video.) Despite the vulgarity, characteristic of YouTube commenters, there is an interesting conversation happening.

Does Coca-Cola have the right to take a stance against obesity?

Studies have shown that the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, like sodas, increase the likelihood of obesity. So who is Coca-Cola to say we should be healthy?

We are faced with this decision all too often in the PR world: Ignore the situation or address it head on? And, for the first time, Coca-Cola chose to take this one head on.

In a press release addressing New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s soda regulation, Coca-Cola made a few sound points:
1. “Restrictions targeting the sale of any food or beverage limit choice and won’t solve obesity.”
2. “Obesity is a complex problem that can’t be blamed on a single food or beverage.”
3. “Coca-Cola is committed to working with all sectors of society to find solutions to obesity.”

I think Coca-Cola made a bold, yet intelligent decision to take on this issue. Through my experience as a nutrition student, I’ve come to live by the mantra “Everything in moderation.” So I agree when Coca-Cola says the company alone is not responsible for the obesity epidemic the U.S. is facing. Even though there is a sense of hypocrisy to its claim, Coca-Cola has the money. And if the money is going toward preventing childhood obesity, well, that’ll “be ok” with me.

Do you think Coca-Cola made the right decision? Do you think other companies in similar situations will follow suit?



  1. Post comment

    Coke can have a voice but will it listen? Control mutuality is an important factor in real relationships (Hon & Grunig) and Coke would need to be vulnerable to feedback from customers, critics and regulators. Can it show that level of organisational maturity?


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