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The Coca-Cola Co has come in for a bit of a beat-down on last week's news that it is funding research backing exercise over calorie-cutting for weight loss. Much as the move is a no-brainer for a CSD company, it's still quite easy to understand why some people are so disappointed with the group.

How will future generations see brand Coca-Cola?

How will future generations see brand Coca-Cola?

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Coca-Cola "has provided financial and logistical support to a new, non-profit organisation called the Global Energy Balance Network, which promotes the argument that weight-conscious Americans are overly fixated on how much they eat and drink while not paying enough attention to exercise". The company defended the revelation to just-drinks last week, saying: "We will continue to support scientific research through public-private partnerships and use those learnings to continue to refresh people around the world with safe, great-tasting beverage options."

This defence failed to impress several observers, including The Motley Fool over the weekend. "Coca-Cola is treading into an ethical grey area and sullying its reputation," wrote contributor Jeremy Bowman. The article also refers to this video, produced by the Global Energy Balance Network.

"Rather than publishing phony science," Bowman concluded, "delivering products that appeal to consumers is the best way to ensure benefits for both customers and investors in the long run."

There is no denying the logic behind the network's stance: Obesity is brought on by a misbalance between the amount of calories consumed and the amount burned off, predominantly through exercise. Nor can there be any questioning of Coca-Cola's stance on funding research that trumpets exercise in the battle against calorie over-consumption.

The level of vitriol directed at CSDs, however, shows no signs of abating, with reports like The New York Times serving more as brickbats with which to pummel the likes of Coca-Cola than triggers for conversations regarding the actual substance of the news.

For right or wrong, I can see a time in the future – although, probably not in my lifetime – when brand Coke will be overwhelmed by these attacks, and consumers will look at the product in a way not dissimilar to the way most of them look at cigarettes today.

While that day is still some way off – I estimate that brand Coke, which grew its volumes in the second quarter by 2%, accounts for around 25% to 30% of group volumes – what are the chances of the Coca-Cola Co sponsoring the 2066 FIFA World Cup with, say, Vitaminwater?


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