Pepsi and Coke
Top executives from Pepsi-Cola Co., Coca-Cola Co., Cadbury Schweppes and the American Beverage Association -- who by their own admission have become poster children for the issue of obesity -- stood side by side with Bill Clinton today to pledge their support of the former president's Alliance for a Healthier Generation effort. Their support includes limiting sales of all but bottled water and small servings of milk and 100% juice in elementary and middle schools; in high schools, the portfolio will be slightly broader, including no- and low-calorie sodas and sports drinks.
The former president said he hoped the initiative was "the first of many" for the food and beverage industry, adding that he applauded the marketers for their involvement in an effort that "is not entirely free of risks, both economic and in terms of potential backlash from consumers."
Jumping before being pushed
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a leader of the alliance, said in fact the soda marketers' "hard decision" comes as part of their desire to "jump in before they're pushed," and he called for the rest of the food and beverage industry to do the same. Although the alliance's Healthy Schools Program launched in February includes plans to evaluate schools on the healthiness of their breakfast and lunch programs as well as snack offerings, nothing has yet been announced in the food arena.
The announcement comes on the heels of yesterday's release of a joint report from the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services that's part of the growing push for food and beverage companies to sell and market more nutritional products to kids as the incidence of child obesity rises. The report acknowledged there should be nutritional standards for food marketed to children but did not, for now, actually impose specific requirements.
Top brass at Pepsi and Coke
Donald Knauss, president of Coca-Cola North America, said the agreement to establish new beverage guidelines in schools will "strengthen the industry's ability to counter critics that say our products don't fit into a healthy lifestyle." Pepsi-Cola North America President-CEO Dawn Hudson likewise said "we believe all our products have a place," but suggested schools are a great place to start teaching kids how to make good choices and how to "balance calories in with calories out."
Although no marketing restrictions accompanied the announcement, Ms. Hudson said Pepsi-Cola will want to promote those beverages that are being sold in schools (rather than those that can no longer be sold) and reiterated Pepsi's ongoing refrain that the company is growing its marketing spending behind its health-and-wellness brands because of growing consumer demand for those products.