Coca-Cola is allegedly working with fitness and nutrition experts who suggested that soda is a healthy snack. This happens in the midst of controversies surrounding the world's biggest beverage maker as it is being blamed for the increasing obesity rates in the United States.
In recent years, sales of Coca-Cola have been in a downward spiral since awareness on obesity and its causes became the mainstream talk of the town. Hence, the company has taken drastic measures to rebrand its image among customers even though they actually did not change much of their products.
In February, many experts published online posts for American Heart Month wherein they included that a mini-can of Coke or soda is a good snack idea. These articles were seen on nutrition blogs and other sites which included major newspapers. This shows how big companies can take measures to make their products look appealing to their consumers.
Ben Sheidler, a Coca-Cola spokesman, compared the February posts to product placement deals a company might have with TV shows. "We have a network of dietitians we work with," said Sheidler, who declined to say how much the company pays experts. "Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent," he told Star Tribune.
This is not the first time this happened. In fact, many big companies have participated in marketing strategies involving dieticians and nutrition experts. For example, Kellogg and General Mills have used similar strategies like providing continuing education classes for nutritionists, funding studies and measures to make their products look healthier than they actually are.
Andy Bellatti of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) noted that these nutritionists have their classes done by fast food chains and their studies funded by soda companies. "We've seen blatant examples of industry co-opting science," Bellatti told Medpage Today.
"Most of the American public has no idea that its national nutrition organization has McDonald's and Coca-Cola educating its professionals," he added.
However, the dieticians who wrote the articles stand for their recommendations. Robyn Flipse, the dietitian who published an article for Coca-Cola, said she would suggest mini-cans of Coke even if she wasn't being paid. She said the smaller cans are a way for people who like soda to enjoy it without drinking too much.