Global Health Groups Urge Soda Investors to Look at Marketing Curbs Ahead of Annual Meetings

The health groups' letter comes after CSPI's February report, Carbonating the World, which spelled out global investment by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

A coalition of worldwide health groups, organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), has sent a letter to soda giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo urging stronger efforts to stop marketing to youth, and they’re also taking their message directly to soda investors as annual meetings approach.

CSPI announced the initiative in a press release today, saying that letters would be sent to Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent and PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi. In addition, copies of the letter would be sent to “major institutional investors for their consideration” at annual meetings in the next few weeks. Coca-Cola meets April 27, and PepsiCo meets May 4.

The healthcare group was joined by a dozen international organizations, including Consumers International, the World Public Health Nutrition Association, and the World Obesity Federation. In a statement, the groups said, “Lower income countries, in particular, will face steep and sometimes unaffordable increases in the healthcare costs associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other soda-related health problems.”

“While sugar-drink consumption in the United States and Europe has been declining, your company and others are investing billions of dollars annually to increase sales in low/middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America,” the letter reads in part. “Much of the marketing is directed at or appeals to children and adolescents.”

With consumption increases projected, the letter states, increased levels of diabetes and obesity won’t be far behind.

The foundation for the letter is CSPI’s February report, Carbonating the World, which called attention to investments in developing nations by the soda companies.

In response to that report, the International Council of Beverage Associations said their companies are “good global citizens,” and that the report “ignores the economic importance of investments beverage companies bring to the hundreds of thousands of employees and their families.” ICBA insists its marketing worldwide is within guidelines 94% of the time.