Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mini Soda + Mini Snacks = Mini Me?

Coca-Cola announced today it will produce 90-calorie mini-cans of soda. This follows the trend of 100 calorie snack packs started a few years ago. Good idea? Let us consider...

A can of classic Coke is 12 ounces and 140 calories, or 11.68 calories per ounce. On Coca-Cola's website the nutrition information says 8 ounces of classic Coke is 97 calories, or 12.125 calories per ounce. First of all, I'm confused about the discrepancy. Secondly, the can sitting in front of me claims the serving size is 1 can. Why is the nutrition information on the website stated in terms of 8 ounces? And, why are the numbers different? Classic Coke is classic Coke. Yes, or no? Who remembers the "New Coke" debacle? And, I digress...

Let us average the calories per ounce from these two data points and presume an ounce of Coke classic is 11.89 calories per ounce. Therefore, the new "mini-cans" of Coke will be roughly 7.5 ounces.

I'm presented with so many thoughts here, which to cover first???

  1. Is 12 ounces of Coke classic actually considered one serving?
  2. If 12 ounces is one serving, why is the nutrition information on their website posted based on 8 ounces?
  3. Why would they produce a new product only 1/2 ounce less than the nutrition information included on the website?
  4. Is Coca-Cola merely attempting to get "credit" for being concerned about the health of their consumers?
  5. Is this in response to PepsiCo's announcement it is joining the "Healthy Weight Community Foundation"? Coca-Cola had to do something, after all!
  6. Is this simply a marketing ploy to get the Coke name in the press?
  7. Is this a brilliant strategy to increase revenue and make stockholders happy?
To round out the discussion, let's peer into a little history. This website has a great look back at the creation of 100 calorie snack packs. Some highlights:
  • Started in 2004 by Kraft
  • Within three years, the sales of 100 calorie packs was more than $200 million
  • Sales grew 28% in one year alone
  • The consumer pays between 16 and 279 percent more by buying 100 calorie packs


I believe we all will support things to make it easier to make better food choices. Yes, it is tough to take one cookie out of the pack and leave the rest of the row intact. It is harder to eat one chip. In some ways, the 100 calorie packs are good for us. We have to make a more conscious choice to open another 100 calorie pack; it is much less obvious to take another handful from a big bag (who will notice, anyway?).

And, yet, I'm left with a little tickle of doubt. Is Coca-Cola only really creating mini-cans to make it easier for their devoted fans to enjoy a Coke without over-indulging? Or, would they like sales to increase by 20-plus percent this year and would they like their consumers to pay over 15 percent more for the product?

A greater number of smaller cans, just like a greater number of smaller calorie packs, are not good for our Earth. More manufacturing cost, more waste, more energy to create and distribute, more trash. Why are we creating and supporting (with our purchasing power) products that undermine our own willpower and strength to make good choices while they are damaging the environment?

Isn't it better to spend the time, money and energy educating each other (and our kids) about real nutrition? Coca-Cola is an American institution and sometimes there is nothing better than a ice-cold glass of Coke. And, for our health, only sometimes (have you read the ingredient label?)!

Perhaps it would make more sense if Coca-Cola spent their valuable time and resources by sending each person in America one 12-ounce can of Coke every three months to enjoy at will. We could look forward to our quarterly can of Coke, enjoy it without guilt and feel good about our health and our concern for the environment. Or, we can fool ourselves into thinking the people making money from us are really only creating new products for our benefit.

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