Coca-Cola says it will make lower-calorie options and clear calorie labeling 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 Wednesday that it would support programs 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.
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 U.S. and has since been rolling out the spot to other countries.
The ad touts Coca-Cola’s wide range of lower-calorie offerings. But executives have also made a point of standing by the company’s full-calorie drinks, saying that physical activity plays an important role in fighting obesity.
“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 globe nevertheless represent a huge opportunity for companies. For example, Coca-Cola has observed that Americans on average drink 403 servings of its various beverages 12 months. That compares along with just 12 servings each year in India as well as 38 in Tiongkok.
And the company’s diet options usually are not nearly as popular such countries as they may be back at residence. In the You. S., where soda consumption may be declining for a long time, diet drinks now are the reason for 41 percent of sales for the flagship Coke brand. That’s up from single-digits inside 1980s.
Even inside major Chinese locations, by contrast, the percentage associated with sales that diet options are the reason for is in the “high single digits, ” Kent explained.
Coca-Cola Co. says its goal is to have diet possibilities open wherever regular versions can be purchased. But that doesn’t mean there will be a diet alternative for each particular brand. For example, if a store in India sells Coke it would also offer Sprite No, which doesn’t have got any calories, to satisfy the goal.
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 States.