Coca-Cola says it will make lower-kJ options and clear kilojoule labelling
more widely available around the world, intensifying a push against critics who
say its drinks pack on the pounds.
The Atlanta-based company, which makes Sprite, Fanta and Minute Maid, already
offers diet drinks in most markets. But there's no consistency in their
availability, particularly in emerging markets such as China and India.
Coca-Cola also said that it would support programmes that encourage
physical activity and no longer market to kids younger than 12. The company had
made a similar promise in 2007 but said the new push would create a "global
standard" for the commitment. It did not elaborate on what changes that would include or set a timetable on
when it planned to meet its new goals.
'Diet drinks can be part of healthy lifestyle'
With sugary drinks often blamed for making people fat, Coca-Cola Co. has been
more aggressive in trying to convince customers its products can be part of a
healthy lifestyle. Earlier this year, the company aired its first TV ad
addressing the matter in the US and has since been rolling out the spot to other
The ad touts Coca-Cola's wide range of lower-kJ offerings. But
executives have also made a point of standing by the company's full-kJ
drinks, saying that physical activity plays an important role in fighting
"There is a place for all of our beverages in a healthy lifestyle," CEO
Muhtar Kent said in a call with reporters.
The announcement from Coca-Cola comes as packaged food companies across the
industry look for growth in emerging markets, where middle-class populations are
growing rapidly. As more people head to cities and see their incomes rise,
health advocates have warned that growing consumption of packaged foods in such
countries could fuel obesity rates as they have in developed nations.
The shifting populations around the world nevertheless represent an enormous
opportunity for companies. For example, Coca-Cola has noted that Americans on
average drink 403 servings of its various beverages a year. That compares with
just 12 servings per year in India and 38 in China.
High number of people consuming diet drinks
And the company's diet options aren't nearly as popular in such countries as
they are back at home. In the US, where soda consumption has been declining for
years, diet drinks now account for 41% of sales for the flagship Coke brand.
That's up from single-digits in the 1980s.
Even in major Chinese cities, by contrast, the percentage of sales that diet
options account for is in the "high single digits," Kent said.
Coca-Cola Co. says its goal is to have diet options available wherever
regular versions are sold. But that doesn't mean there would be a diet
alternative for every particular brand. For example, if a store in India sells
Coke it might also offer Sprite Zero, which doesn't have any calories, to meet
The company also says it's working to have cans and bottles around the world
display calories counts on the front of labels, as it does in the United