Sunday, October 11, 2009

Coca-Cola, why have you forsaken me?

I drink Fresca in the morning.

I’ve never liked coffee and I used to get my caffeine from Coke.

I used to drink A LOT of Coke.

But I quit caffeine about ten years ago and started drinking Fresca which is also made by The Coca-Cola Company. It's refreshing and has the same kind of course, carbonated mouth-feel that Coke has but doesn’t have any caffeine or calories.

The other day I took the time to read the copy on a box of 12oz cans.

Say you had a good night's sleep, but come mid-morning you're running out of steam. Could be you're a little thirsty. Nab a soda, water, coffee, anything will do the trick. Women may need as many as 9 cups of fluid and men may need up to 13 daily. Bodies do talk. We just have to listen.

Hey, we’re just saying…your body needs water. Well, let’s not say “water”, let’s say “liquid.” Or “fluid.” Yeah, fluid. Your body needs fluid to survive.

And hey, we sell fluids! Ergo, you need Coca-Cola products to survive! So dude, listen to your body and buy some Coke.

I’ve been meaning to do a post about that bullshit but haven’t found the right place or time to do it. Until I saw Muhtar Kent’s op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal last Tuesday.

Kent is the CEO of The Coca-Cola Company and as such is partly responsible for the health tip about hydration on the back of my Fresca box.

The purpose of his piece in the WSJ was to argue against various state tax proposals being floated to tax high-calorie and high-fat foods such as fast food burgers and soda.

And in much the same way that the rats in the Fresca marketing department have veiled their sales message in a bull-shit health and nutrition Trojan Horse, Kent hides his anti-tax message in a deceptive rant about the “real” causes of obesity.

What I’m saying is that you should be at about DefCon 2 when you consider anything this guy says.

So please allow me to share some highlights of the article along with a little TMUOTF commentary along the way. Mr. Kent's assertions follow in italics with my comments in standard text.

We at the Coca-Cola company are committed to working with government and health organizations to implement effective solutions to address (the problem of obesity).

Just as we’ve addressed the tricky problem of dehydration…

…a number of public-health advocates have already come up with what they think is the solution: heavy taxes on some routine foods and beverages that they have decided are high in calories.

Does anyone need to “decide” if soda is high in calories? Soda is high in calories. Period. Don’t tell me that you’re going to argue otherwise. Surely you’re not.

Oh yes he is…

Even soft drinks with sugar, like Coca-Cola, contain no more calories (140 calories in a can) than some common snacks, breakfast foods and most desserts served up daily in millions of American homes.

Hey man, our shit won’t make you any fatter than any of the other shit you have in your cupboard right now. Don’t blame us. Pop Tarts (198 calories in a single, ahem, pastry…) make you fat too!

So here’s the real deal with the calories in a can of coke. Kent is right, 140 calories in a can. But the most popular soda size is the 20oz bottle, not the 12oz can. The 20oz bottle has 242 calories.

What else has 242 calories ?

*A Krisy Kreme Apple Filled Cinnamon Sugar Cake Donut (280 calories)

*Burger King’s 5 piece chicken tenders (230 calories)

*Burger King's Hershey's Sundae Pie (310 calories)

So what Kent suggests isn’t that bad, is actually the equivalent of adding a Krispy Kreme donut to your diet every day.

And oh, by the way, millions of people drink two or three sodas every day. Think you'll get fat if you eat three Krispy Kreme's every day? Of course you will.

The taxes, the advocates acknowledge, are intended to limit consumption of targeted foods and help you to accept the diet that they have determined is best.

Sound familiar? It should. Its right out of the Republican/Conservative talk radio playbook. “These egg-head do-gooders are trying to tell you how to live your life!”

The average American spends the equivalent of 60 days a year in front of a television, according to a 2008 A.C. Nielsen study. This same research data show that the average time spent playing video games in the U.S. went up by 25% during the last four years.

True. Probably. If I had balls as big as Muhtar Kent’s I might try to argue that we don’t watch enough TV. But sure Mr. Kent. I agree. We watch too much TV.

But we also drink too much soda you asshole. Here are some statistics Mr. Kent chose NOT to share...

*Containing almost 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-ounce serving, sweetened beverages are the largest single source of added sugar in the American diet.

*Each day Americans consume 22 teaspoons of sugar — far surpassing the recommended 5 to 9 teaspoons per day.

*41% of children (ages 2–11 years), 62% of adolescents (ages 12–17 years), and 24% of adults in California drink at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage every day.

*The average American consumes 50 gallons of soda and other sweetened beverages each year.

*Americans consume about 250–300 more daily calories today than they did several decades ago, and nearly half of this increase reflects greater consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

*A child’s risk for obesity increases an average of 60 percent with every additional daily serving of soda.

Over the past 20 years, the average caloric content of soft drinks has dropped by nearly 25%. This is due in large part to a determined focus by our company and others on the diet/light category.

Not relevant to the conversation. The tax proposals are about high calorie foods and beverages. Coke. Not Diet Coke.

Will a soft drink tax change behavior? Two states currently have a tax on sodas— West Virginia and Arkansas —and they are among the states with the highest rates of obesity in the nation.

According the The Arkansas Times , the tax in Arkansas is $0.02 per 12 oz of soda, not nearly enough to drive behavioral changes. The tax in West Virginia is even less.

But also, dig the logical inconsistency of his argument. If he’s so convinced that taxes will not change consumption behavior, then what is he so worried about?

…we agree that Americans need to be more active and take greater responsibility for their diets. But are soft drinks the cause? I would submit to you that they are no more so than some other products—and a lot less than many, many others.

In sales, this is called “the assumptive close.” First Kent dodges responsibility by saying that it’s not his fault and then he boldly agrees with his own assertion!

The lesson here is that when these corporate guys speak out on issues of public interest, they’re always, ALWAYS thinking about their own interests first.

Mr. Kent doesn’t care any more about obesity than he does about keeping you hydrated. Whether he’s talking to you from the packaging of a Fresca box or from the pages of the Wall Street Journal he’s feeding you a shit sandwich and trying to convince you that its the pause that refreshes.

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