Byravee Iyer
May 9, 2013

Coca-Cola's labeling decision to drive nutritional understanding in Asia

ASIA-PACIFIC - Coca-Cola's plans to display calorie labeling on the front of all its packaging help to position the brand on the right side of the obesity issue and should promote better nutritional understanding among consumers in Asia, according to a brand consultant.

Coca-Cola pledged measures to tackle obesity in 200 countries
Coca-Cola pledged measures to tackle obesity in 200 countries

As part of the just-announced move, the cola giant also pledged to offer low-calorie or no-calorie beverage options in every market, while promising to market more responsibly, which includes no advertising to children under 12 anywhere.  

Coke claims that low/no-calorie beverages represent 25 per cent of its global portfolio. “Obesity is today’s most challenging health issue, affecting nearly every family and community across the globe," said Muhtar Kent, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company in a press statement posted on the company website. "It is a global societal problem which will take all of us working together and doing our part.” 

Kent has been actively trying to change the perception of Coca Cola. Under his tenure, Coke has introduced campaigns promoting its low calorie drinks. The company has also initiated healthy living programs in more than 115 countries.

Brand experts commended the move and said they hope it will help develop an understanding of nutrition in Asia. “Some of these issues with regard to nutritional components are relatively underdeveloped in Asia,” said Graham Hitchmough, regional director, ASEAN, The Brand Union.  “A move like this should help drive the debate and accelerate awareness.”

Indeed, according to last year’s ‘Healthy eating’ report released by Nielsen, the Asia-Pacific region shows the lowest percentage of consumers with a full understanding of nutrition labels. According to the report, only 31 per cent of Asian consumers said they understood nutritional labels on packaging, significantly lower than the global average of 41 per cent. In North America, 57 per cent of consumers said they understood nutritional information.

Both globally and within the region, food label confusion was reported to be the highest in Chinese-speaking nations and Southeast Asia. Roughly 20 per cent of consumers in Taiwan and Hong Kong and 25 per cent in China and South Korea indicated they understood nutritional labeling. Conversely, among Asia-Pacific markets, over half the consumers in India, Australia, and New Zealand said they mostly understand nutritional data.

In Asia, the beverage giant has been investing in educating consumers about nutrition. In China, Coca-Cola started an education and awareness program to teach university students the importance of nutrition. A $300,000 grant aims to support the program in 12 cities and 36 universities. Similarly, in South Korea, a $200,000 grant was extended to 550 youths to teach healthy behaviours to people at risk of obesity. The Federation of Thai Industries and Coca-Cola together launched a roadshow on nutrition literacy in Thailand.

Asian countries, unlike their European counterparts, have not implemented tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. France, Denmark and Hungary have introduced such ‘soda taxes’, and it has been widely speculated that the UK may follow suit. 

Campaign Asia

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