As sales of diet drinks sharply decline, Coca-Cola is launching new ads today defending the safety of artificial sweeteners, claiming that artificial sweeteners are healthy and that diet drinks can help with weight loss. While this is the first time that Coca-Cola is actively touting the health benefits of artificial sweeteners, controversial ads are nothing new for the multinational beverage corporation. Last January, Coca-Cola’s advertisements affirmed its support for the fight against obesity, pointing out that they carry many zero or low-calorie drinks. But today, Coca-Cola is taking it a step further, actually claiming that the artificial sweeteners found in their products are safe and not harmful.
“Coke is trying to get out front and proactively defend these diet sweeteners,” said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, which tracks the industry.
The new ads come at a time when sales for diet drinks are declining: sales for Diet Coke fell by three percent last year, while sales for Diet Pepsi fell by six percent. Sales for non-diet drinks also declined last year, but not as much (Beverage Digest estimates that sales for regular Coke fell by just one percent and sales for Pepsi fell by three percent).
With the risk of a further decline, Coca-Cola is trying to reassure its customers that there’s nothing dangerous about aspartame or other artificial sweeteners that they use, especially since many people are blaming fast food, junk food, and unhealthy food corporations for the rise in obesity rates.
The first ad is slated to run in today’s edition of USA Today in Atlanta, Georgia, where Coca-Cola’s headquarters are located, with more ads being printed in the Chicago Tribune and the Atlanta Journal Constitution next week. If the response is good, they’ll expand their reach across the country in the coming weeks.
In the ads, the company will be claiming that diet drinks can help with your weight loss plan and that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are safe, something the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has maintained as well.
The ad features two women under the heading “Quality products you can always feel good about.” The ad also notes that “Time and again, these low- and no-calorie sweeteners have shown to be safe, high-quality alternatives to sugar.”
We’ll have to stay tuned to see how the public and health educators react to these new ads, but in the meantime, it looks like Coca-Cola’s not going down without a fight.
“Coke to defend safety of aspartame in new ad,” CBC News web site, August 13, 2013; http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/08/13/business-coke-aspartame.html, last accessed August 14, 2013.