Coca-Cola takes its responsibilities to customers and consumers very seriously and recognises its leadership in the non-alcoholic beverage industry. Therefore, when it comes to the fight against New Zealand’s rising obesity rate, a growing concern for all, the company choose to do more, not just say more. And while sugar in moderation is fine, too much sugar isn’t good for anyone. Given the challenges it places on society as a whole, it is an issue that requires effective, sustainable, and workable solutions. Coca-Cola and its brands have, and continue to take and demonstrate commitment to helping Kiwis consume less sugar.
The FiZZ Symposium, which was held in Auckland back in June, advocated for a ban on soft drinks by 2025. At the very least, it would like to see the introduction of taxes to encourage Kiwis to drink fewer soft drinks. However, the industry is already seeing Kiwis consuming fewer soft drinks each year. Despite this, obesity rates in New Zealand continue to climb.
Soft drinks are not the sole cause of the obesity problem – in fact, they contribute to just 1.5 percent of the total energy in a New Zealand adult’s diet. It is, therefore, Coca-Cola’s belief that focusing on one particular food or drink is not going to provide the silver bullet that will reverse the growing obesity rate.
“It is our view that you can’t tax or regulate your way to a healthy lifestyle,” said Sandhya Pillay, general manager at Coca-Cola Oceania. “Kiwis should have the right to decide what the best drink choice is for them and their families and the evidence shows the majority of people are already doing this. At Coca-Cola, we believe we have an important and undeniable responsibility to provide our consumers with information enabling them to make informed and positive decisions without limiting choice or penalising those who choose to have a treat. We are fully aware that eating and drinking less sugar is important.”
Thirty-five years ago, Coca-Cola started with the launch of Diet Coke, and continue to take action by introducing new low and no sugar drinks and reducing the sugar content of its existing recipes across its entire portfolio.
After the launch of Diet Coke in 1982, its low and no-sugar Coke recipe evolution continued with Coke Zero in 2006, followed by Coke Life in 2015. And, after years of research and development, the brand launched Coca-Cola No Sugar, another step in the evolution. Today its portfolio in New Zealand consists of over 120 products and 21 brands with all of its top sellers offering a no sugar alternative. Its range of products is wide-reaching from Organic Juice to Iced Tea, Sports Drinks and Water. It has also launched coconut water and grab-and-go coffee.
However, the company is not just focussed on what goes into the bottle – it’s also about what is outside the bottle.
“We are providing more information to people to help shape better choices for themselves. This includes investing more in raising awareness of our low and no-sugar options and promoting smaller pack sizes to encourage moderation. Our vending machines now have nutritious panels, and we voluntarily put clear, easy to find calorie information front-of-pack so people can make informed choices.”
Coca-Cola also has strict policies to ensure its marketing is responsible and appropriate for every possible person and place.
“We have endorsed and are committed to the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Kids Industry Pledge and have committed to complying with the new Advertising Standards Authority Children’s and Young Person’s Code. Through all this, we believe Kiwis are already making positive beverage choices. Today, one-third of our sales are either low or no sugar varieties. This has risen 12 percent in the past year, and we expect to see even more growth as Kiwis make choices about how much sugar they’re consuming.”
Coca-Cola has changed its long-term business model to encourage and enable New Zealanders to control their intake of sugar from its drink portfolio.
In addition to this, water remains the number one drink consumed in New Zealand, and this is mainly tap-water.
“We genuinely recognise that the world is changing. So, we are too. We are proud of who we are and of our portfolio. And in line with what consumers are telling us, we are now even more focused on producing, and responsibly marketing reduced sugar drinks. Our door is open.”
Sandhya Pillay, General Manager, Coca-Cola Oceania.