Monday, 23 November 2015

Coca-Cola - Healthy Changes and Great Projects

This weekend Coca-Cola sponsored me to attend the Mumsnet Blogfest conference in London and I'm so glad they did as I had a wonderful time, as I've written about over here.

I have to say that when an email arrived from Coke I was pretty chuffed as Diet Coke has been my drink of choice for at least the last 25 years. I've never waived from their brand being my prefered one, even when I worked for Pepsi and had the chance of free cans!

It's amazing though how little you can know about a brand whilst being brand loyal and using their products. It was very good to be able to sit down with some of the long-standing (testament to Coke being a good employer) staff for breakfast on Saturday and to learn a bit more about Coca-Cola and what they stand for.

I realise the cynics in the room would say that Coca-Cola stands for profit and that is all they are about and it was good to hear the staff being honest and saying of course profit is a driver but it is not in their global mission.  Their mission is -
  • To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit 
  • To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions 
  • To create value and make a difference.
Can you imagine working for a company where you are striving to ensure that you inspire happiness and make a difference? It certainly sounds like a company I want to work for and indeed with and I was impressed to hear that 97% of Coca-Cola products sold in Great Britain are made here and that they employ around 4,000 people in the process.

During our breakfast I learnt so much about Coca-Cola, far too much to share here but there are two aspects that I think you too will find interesting and thus I want to share.

Healthy Changes
Coca-Cola has a wide portfolio of drinks. There are far more brands under their umbrella than I had any idea of. Who knew that Schweppes and Glaceau Vitamin Water were Coke products? Or even that they have a majority share holding in Innocent drinks too? So there really is something for everyone to choose from, even a choice of still water - Buxton or Smart!

Of course in recent times natural sugar has been made out to be the root of all evil and whilst I understand too much of it can be very detrimental, I am a big believer in balance and moderation. Coke are too and they are working very hard to offer choice and information to their customers. I was pleased to hear they were one of the first companies to sign up to the Department of Public Healths Responsibility Deal and between 2012 and 2014 they reduced the average calories per litre in their range of sparkling drinks by 5%.

Not content to stop there, they have now invested £15 million in reformulation projects and managed to reduce the sugar and calories by at least 30% in Sprite, Dr Pepper, Lilt, Oasis and Fanta. They have also launched the new Coca-Cola life variant in the green cans and bottles, this has the same great taste but a third less sugar and calories than regular Coke by using the natural plant based sweetner Stevia.

In fact there have been so many positive changes that Coca-Cola have been making, things like -
  • Increasing the range of product sizes, so people can choose how much to drink in one serving. Personally I think the new 250 ml cans are a great addition to the range.
  • Using front-of-pack nutritional labelling to clearly show what is contained within the drink and as of this year we will start to see the the colour coding being added to that nutritional labelling, so you can make a very informed choice if you see the red or amber sectors.
  • Making the commitment that Great Britain will be the first country in the world where 50% of the Coca-Cola sold will be the lower or no-calorie options.
  • Creating a unified 'one brand' marketing strategy, so that the four key Coke brands (regular, Diet, Zero and Life) are marketed together, thus the consumer always has choice and never feels that regular Coke is the only option.
  • In 2015 they have more than doubled their media investment in promoting the lower and no-sugar variants of Coca-Cola.
I think you will agree, there is some great work going on there, but that is not all....

Great Projects
When the breakfast meeting first opened up we were asked what we would like to learn/ achieve from the meeting and I said I was keen to hear more about some of the great projects that Coca-Cola are involved with. I had followed Amanda and Sally's journey to Tanzania with Coke late last year and seen them posting about one of the big projects Coca-Cola are involved with, the 5by20 project and also having been to Africa I had heard manly times how important it is that big companies like Coke are involved in the country as much of the major infrastructure had been built by them, a fact most Westerners have no idea about.

We touched on a few projects during our time together and I learnt that Coke are working in partnership with the WWF on many water projects, restoring chalk streams and replenishing the water they use in their manufacturing process. Also that Coke donated £100K to StreetGames in 2014 to help train up their next generation of coaches who work with disadvantaged children across GB. There is also their involvement in the Special Olympics which is interesting too but probably my favourite initiative that I'd not heard anything about before is -

Park Lives -
Park Lives is being bought into 10 major cities and 20 towns across GB by 2020. Coca-cola are working with local authorities such as Newcastle, Birmingham, Newham and Glasgow bringing free (for all) activity sessions into the parks between April and the end of September each year. There is all sorts going on - donkey grooming, frisbee, yoga, Nordic walking, fishing, roller blading, social dog walking and so much more. In 2014 alone over 70 different parks took part in 105 different activities with in excess of 22,500 free sessions were offered.

The aim of the Park Lives project is to help more British people get outside and be active, not by chastising them or making them do sport but by offering fun and sociable activities where they can enjoy their local area and make new friends.

I was impressed when I watched one of the promotional videos to see that not everything is heavily branded with the Coca-Cola name, this isn't about undercover marketing. It is genuinely to be socially responsible. In fact all the initiatives we heard about were new to me and I came to realise that Coke really does not 'blow its own trumpet' when it comes to showing themselves off as a responsible company, interested in more than just selling. Perhaps they ought to shout out about some of this great stuff more often!

I think there is only so much I can tell you in one post but suffice to say I was really impressed with Coke and will continue to remain a customer of theirs!

Disclosure: Cola-Cola paid for my accommodation, train and ticket for Blogfest in return for attending a breakfast symposium and sharing my views, as well as tweeting and posting about what I learnt. As I mentioned above I am a lifelong customer of Coke and thus was really happy to work with them. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

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