The biggest stories of the week have all been linked to the Budget. And of them all, the focus was his decision to impose a tax on soft drinks and redirect the money into school sports.
Let’s put aside the suspicion that the sugar tax was an attempt to shift the spotlight away from something else. Such as the likelihood the government will miss its own debt-reduction targets.
Suddenly the soft drinks industry found itself at the centre of attention. As people were reminded that, yes sweet-tasting drinks can actually contain sugar, we thought it was worth looking at what the sector might be doing to offset the bad news.
Coca-Cola health page
Coca-Cola – which also owns Sprite and Fanta, among other brands – has a statement from its UK general manager running on its health section. The statement itself is bland PR and doesn’t actually refer to the tax. Instead it concentrates on the large number of sugar-free drinks the company produces.
The Coca-Cola health section is more interesting. Headlines include ‘Why Water is One of Our Most Important Ingredients’ and ‘How We’re Tackling Obesity’. There are also caffeine counter and BMI calculator apps.
From a professional point of view, it makes a fairly good fist of trying to tackle the issues head on. No one is going to say these drinks will make you live longer. The question is whether you should keep quiet or counter the stories that say they could make you die more quickly.
AG Barr and the opposite approach
Scottish drinks manufacturer AG Barr (producer of Irn-Bru and Tizer) takes a different approach. Despite speaking openly to the press about its disappointment with the sugar tax, it has very little health-related content on its site.
What there is concentrates on a responsibility deal that was brokered by the government in 2011. This includes an agreement to reduce the average calorific content across its range. The remaining content is focused on workforce initiatives.
Content or not?
So which strategy is right? Reconciling health and sugar is a difficult argument to win and there’s a lot of sense in keeping your head down. However, if you’re going to make comments to the media then surely you should look at making more of a case on your own platform.