After reading my recent blog item about a study that suggested kids who play sports eat more junk food, Kevin Morris, Coca-Cola's vice president of Public Affairs and Communications, wrote to "set the record straight." He stressed that Coke doesn't market "beverage brands in venues where children under the age of 12 years are the primary audience."
I passed his letter along to Toben Nelson, the study's lead researcher, who sent me the above photo of the Coke sign, hanging on the playground fence outside a Minnesota elementary school. "Coke can argue that they provided the sign, but St. Paul Parks and Recreation is the one who hung it in that spot, but clearly Coke markets to kids in sports and lots of other settings, " Nelson said.
Here's the full letter to the editor:
You can imagine my disappointment when I read Tribune reporter Julie Deardorff’s 'Kids who play sports eat more junk food: Study(News, Feb. 24), the second article this month that failed to provide readers with a balanced perspective about the Coca-Cola Co.'s business practices.
To set the record straight, Coca-Cola does not market our beverage brands in venues where children under the age of 12 years are the primary audience. Coke has adhered to this policy for more than 50 years, and it extends to youth sporting events and clubs.
What we have done — and will continue to do — is support important programs and facilities in the communities where we operate. Earlier this year, we were honored to provide a grant to the Howe Elementary School for the purpose of building a playground. Today, children in the Austin community have a safe place to play where formerly a concrete slab existed. The playground is completely unbranded. (Julie's note: I highlighted this playground in "Beverage-makers build playgrounds, draw criticism.")
Coca-Cola also recognizes that different people have different lifestyles and preferences. We believe all our products can have a place in a balanced diet. We provide more than 700 beverages in the U.S. for consumers to choose from.
Deardorff is right that something is seriously out of balance, but it has nothing to do with sports drinks at soccer games. A company should be able to contribute to the community where its employees live and work without being condemned.
(Julie's note: If you missed it, here's my piece on Coke and PepsiCo's wellness initiatives.)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun