Coca-Cola Amends School Marketing Strategy
Saying it is reacting to concerns about commercialism in schools and the nutritional damage caused by soft drinks, the Coca-Cola Company announced that it is scaling back its aggressive marketing strategy in schools. The company said it would end its exclusive contracts with a limited number of schools; include juice, milk and water in its school vending machines; and replace advertising on those machines with pictures of students engaged in sports and other physical activity, as schools have requested. The company also said it would respect the wishes of school administrators who want to limit the hours and places where soft drinks are sold. The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education (CCFPE) dismissed the Coke move as a cynical bid to maintain its hold on its youngest and most impressionable consumers.
Under so-called pouring rights contracts, schools allow Coke and bottlers like Pepsi to put machines in hallways and cafeterias in exchange for a share of the profits. Schools get a bigger share if they agree to distribute only Coke, and how much money schools get depends on how much they sell. About 240 schools in 31 states now have exclusive arrangements, the CCFPE said. The center and other critics say the arrangements play on the vulnerabilities of schools where budgets are stretched thin.
USDA estimates that 74 percent of boys and 65 percent of girls drink sugar-sweetened soft drinks every day. An increasing number of studies have examined the results: an analysis of children in Massachusetts released last month said drinking one extra soft drink a day gave children a 60 percent greater chance of becoming obese. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that drinking cola made active girls five times more likely to have bone fractures.
Coke’s biggest rival, Pepsi, has similar arrangements with schools. Larry Jabbonsky, a Pepsi spokesman, said the company was planning similar changes.
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