Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Coca-Cola comes clean on obesity

Coke's New Zealand division today starts an advertising campaign which expressly mentions the obesity problem and highlights steps it will take to tackle the issue. Photo / AP
Coke's New Zealand division today starts an advertising campaign which expressly mentions the obesity problem and highlights steps it will take to tackle the issue. Photo / AP

Drinks giant Coca-Cola will today address New Zealand's obesity problem with a new campaign.

But a health campaigner says the company's efforts will ring hollow unless it takes more radical measures - such as ditching its larger bottle sizes.

Coke's New Zealand division today starts an advertising campaign which expressly mentions the obesity problem and highlights steps it will take to tackle the issue.

The new "commitments" include increasing the availability of smaller portion sizes, offering a wider selection of low-kilojoule drinks, and clearly displaying calorie counts on places such as vending machines.

It will also sponsor more physical activity programmes, and run television advertisements on how kilojoules - including those in its own products - affect weight.

The move is an effort to combat criticism directed at soft drink makers for the sugar-laden content of their drinks.

Auckland University researchers have estimated that more than 4 per cent of New Zealand's annual health care budget is spent caring for overweight and obese people.

"I guess at the end of the day, Coke has calories," said Paul Fitzgerald, general manager of Coca-Cola New Zealand.

"But then so does all of the food and beverages that we consume.

"It's a complex issue that ... boils down to if you consume more calories than you burn, you put on weight," said Mr Fitzgerald.

The chairwoman of Fight the Obesity Epidemic, Dr Robyn Toomath, said introducing smaller serve sizes would be ineffective if bottles such as the 2.25L were not scrapped - a move ruled out by Coca-Cola..

"A lot of people say this is a matter of free choice. But the reality is that people are choosing unwisely."

Coke battles fat

* Advertisements to mention the obesity problem.
* Will offer smaller portions _ but keep larger-sized bottles.
* Greater selection of low-kilojoule drinks.
* Wider distribution of nutritional information.
* More sponsorship of physical activity programmes.

- NZ Herald

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