Coke takes anti-obesity campaign global

The Atlanta-based company, which makes Sprite, Fanta and Minute Maid, already offers diet drinks in most markets. But those diet drinks are not always as readily available in emerging markets such as China and India as they are in the U.S.

With sugary drinks coming under fire for fueling obesity rates, Coca-Cola Co. has been more aggressive in trying to convince customers its products can be part of a healthy lifestyle. That campaign has included the company touting its wide range of lower-calorie offerings. But Coca-Cola has also stood by its full-calorie drinks, saying that physical activity plays an important role in fighting obesity.

“We’re beginning the next phase of our journey to promote better health and well-being,” Muhtar Kent, CEO of the Atlanta-based beverage giant, said Wednesday in unveiling the health initiatives on the company’s 127th anniversary.

Meredith R. Tyzinski, clinical dietitian for the heart and vascular units of Miami Valley Hospital, called Coke’s pledges “a great start,” and said she is hopeful the company’s initiatives will have a beneficial impact as part of an overall increasing awareness of nutrition and obesity issues.

“Like it or not, Coca-Cola is a part of daily life for a lot of people,” Tyzinski said. And sugary beverages, snack items and other prepackaged foods contribute an unhealthy proportion of calories to those who are not physically active and obese. Wednesday’s announcement suggests Coca-Cola is accepting accountability for its products’ role in the world’s obesity problem, the clinical dietitian said.

Richard Cohen, registered dietitian with Kettering Health Network’s Kettering Weight Loss Solutions, also praised the Coca-Cola initiative.

“I particularly like the direction not to market to children under 12,” Cohen said. “This is a vulnerable group that needs to establish healthy eating habits. I wish all food companies would adapt similar polices.”

The strategy is part of a long-term positioning by Coca-Cola to encourage better habits, partly so that customers are healthy enough to continue drinking both the company’s sugary drinks and its more nutritional options, industry experts said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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