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Coca-Cola to address obesity problem in ad

Jan. 15, 2013 @ 06:51 AM

NEW YORK — Coca-Cola became one of the world’s most powerful brands by equating its soft drinks with happiness. Now it’s taking to the airwaves for the first time to address a growing cloud over the industry: obesity.

The Atlanta-based company on Monday will begin airing a two-minute spot during the highest-rated shows on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in hopes of flexing its marketing muscle in the debate over sodas and their impact on public health. The ad lays out Coca-Cola’s record of providing drinks with fewer calories and notes that weight gain is the result of consuming too many calories of any kind — not just soda.

For Coca-Cola, the world’s No. 1 beverage company, the ads reflect the mounting pressures on the broader industry. Later this year, 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. The mayor of Cambridge, Mass., has already introduced a similar measure, saying she was inspired by New York’s move.

Even when PepsiCo Inc., the No. 2 soda maker, recently signed a wide-ranging endorsement deal with pop singer Beyonce, critics called for her to drop the contract or donate the funds to health initiatives.

New research in the past year also suggests that sugary drinks cause people to pack on the pounds independent of other behavior. A decades-long study involving more than 33,000 Americans, for example, suggested that drinking sugary beverages interacts with genes that affect weight and enhances a person’s risk of obesity beyond what it would be from heredity alone.

Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, was skeptical about Coca-Cola’s ads and said the company would stop fighting soda taxes if it was serious about helping reduce obesity.

The group has been critical of the soft drink industry and last year released a video parodying Coke’s famous polar bears becoming plagued with diabetes and other health problems.
 

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