Coca-Cola To Stop Targeting Kids, Wants To Help Combat Obesity

Coca-Cola wants to change its image as a huge contributor to the obesity epidemic in America. Step one is to stop targeting kids under 12 in advertising campaigns.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Coca-Cola Co. is planning a huge overhaul of their public image which will include broader distribution of low-calorie and diet drinks and putting calorie counts on the front of its labels. The company has also promised to sponsor physical activity programs and will stop marketing drinks to children under 12.

They didn’t say when this campaign would go into effect or how much it would cost, but the announcement comes on the heels of an increasing amount of criticism pointed at sugary drinks and their contribution to the obesity epidemic.

“The key here is to ensure that in every market where we operate to have no- or low-calorie beverages of our main brands available,” said Muhtar Kent, Coke’s chairman and chief executive. “We do not have that consistently across the world today.”

But some are skeptical of Coca-Cola’s push to reform its image. Jeff Cronin, a spokesman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, mocked the initiative and pointed to government intervention as the only viable solution. “The company’s objective is to deflect criticism of sugary drinks and forestall meaningful government action to reduce soda consumption,” he said.

And soda makers are indeed a bit cornered in popular culture, what with an increased push by some government officials to regulate the sugary beverages. “Soft drinks are the devil product at the moment,” said emeritus nutrition professor Jack Winkler of London Metropolitan University.

Though Coca-Cola lists its new initiative as having begun in 2010, the latest announcement is significant because it signals a broad, global approach to combating obesity, not just a domestic one. “I think [Coke] realizes it’s a global thing,” said Caroline Levy, a global beverage analyst.

What do you think? Should Coca-Cola reform its image and help combat obesity, should the government intervene somehow, or should we stop drinking soda on our own if we don’t want the negative health effects? Sound off!

[Image via: PHOTO FUN / Shutterstock]