I need your help. I can't decide what to think about the current Coke Wars.
You may have heard about or seen this video, The Real Bears, which connects the dots between sugary soda, obesity and diabetes. This inflammatory piece, produced by The Center for Science in the Public Interest with a song featuring Jason Mraz, has been kicked around the news media a lot recently. But I'm not entirely on board with positioning Coke as the root of all evil.
Any organization with a name like The Center for Science in the Public Interest is one I instinctively want to support. I have no reservations about labeling myself a "bleeding-heart liberal." But still, I have trouble pinning all the blame for a ballooning nationwide epidemic (excuse the pun) on one soda company.
Last week, Coke revealed its response in an ad campaign about "coming together" to help fight obesity and all of its causes. It is easy to approach this response with a cynical eye and dismiss the campaign as a simple attempt at damage control. But it is hard to deny that the company has already made significant change in the right direction. The "coming together" ad notes that Coke has stopped selling the beverages with the highest sugar content in middle schools (but interestingly, there's no note of what's being sold in high schools). The company now offers smaller serving-size cans, supports programs to get kids active, and continues to research new sweetener options, among other changes.
Yes, the point can be made that these initiatives were the result of public pressure and a growing concern that the company may not have our children's best interest at heart. Personally, I believe that as a nation, we need to continue to demand that Coke does all it can to find cleaner beverage alternatives and promote healthy choices. The fight is not over. But still, can we really blame the entire obesity situation on a single product?
As always, I advocate for moderation in all things. As much as we laugh at Mayor Bloomberg's smaller cup campaign, he's got a good point. A reasonably-sized Coke, enjoyed occasionally, is not so awful. It's similar to eating one brownie instead of the entire pan. If you have no self control, don't buy the two-liter of Coke, and don't bake the brownies. No matter how much we like to place blame on corporate America for all of the country's ills, at some point we need to take personal responsibility for our own lifestyle, and our own weight.
Speaking of weighing in, here's where I need your help: What do you think of the new Coke campaign? Are the Coke polar bears the new Marlboro Man? Is Coke the symbol of all that is wrong with America or an America on the mend? If you drink soda (which, for the record, I don't -- though I wouldn't begrudge anyone their fix), how much is a reasonable amount?
Please continue the discussion in the comments box below.
Disclosure Notes: Decades ago, when my sister worked for Coca-Cola Enterprises, the world's largest Coke bottler, she traveled the globe helping to implement a new computer system for the company. During this time, the MOTH and I were treated to a few company- paid vacations to visit her where she worked, including trips to Seattle and Maui. Also, a former Coke executive remains a close family friend. Lastly, please note: though I used to drink quite a bit of Diet Coke, I haven't had a carbonated beverage in over a decade, simply because I've outgrown the taste for it.