07 Nov 2018 Coca-Cola scales back Christmas Truck Tour by over a third
Coca Cola have announced this year’s tour dates for the Coca Cola Christmas Truck Tour – a timely announcement indeed, coinciding with Food Active Conference in Manchester, discussing the importance tackling obesity in pre-school children.
We have long opposed the Coca Cola truck tour arriving in the North West, having coordinated and supported local and national letters to Coca Cola to call for more responsible marketing to children with SUGAR SMART – this year, we supported a letter by SUGAR SMART that gained 83 signatories from national organisations, campaign groups and 27 local councils to call on Coca-Cola to only hand out sugar-free drinks. We have also published an article in the British Medical Journal in 2017 to make the case for public health and why we should not be welcoming this sugar-ladened truck into our towns and cities that are struggling with an obesity and oral health crisis.
With figures showing that 35.2% of 10 to 11-year olds in the North West are overweight or obese and that 33.4% of 5 years olds have tooth decay, many public health departments have used their ever-squeezed budgets to launch campaigns about sugary drinks to try to help their communities reduce their consumption.
Coca-Cola’s tactics in attempting to frame the debate around healthy weight have been documented. Whether this is in shaping research, sponsorship of mega events, funding community sports activities, or even raising funds to distribute food for people in need, Coca-Cola’s mission is clearly both to promote its business and shape public opinion. At Christmas, Coca-Cola’s marketing goes into overdrive as newspapers across the country regurgitate press releases for its Christmas truck tour, with advertorials promoting the truck as a Christmas tradition
In its seventh year on the road, the Christmas of 2017 saw the truck visit four locations in North West England offering visitors the opportunity to have their photo taken with the vehicle while being given free product (including a 150 ml can of standard Coca-Cola containing 15.9 g of sugar—nearly four teaspoons).
This year, we welcome the announcement that there is only one visit in the North West this year, in Manchester. In fact, the number of stops on the tour has been scaled back by over a third, from 42 in 2017 to just 24 stops this year (and only 4 on council owned landed, no less). There are however 10 stops are being hosted on Asda and Tesco supermarket car parks – SUGAR SMART have responded by calling on these supermarkets to commit to not allowing hand-outs of sugary drinks and to review their position about inviting the Coke truck back next year. You can take action yourself and write to Asda and Tesco here.
Nevertheless, we thank Coca-Cola for helping local authorities across the Food Active network and beyond to tackle poor oral health and obesity in their region by not promoting their high sugar drinks in their communities.
We have published a position statement ‘Health Harms of High Street Giveaways’ in support of action tackling large scale marketing events of unhealthy food and drink products – we know that events such as the Coca-Cola truck do not just happen at Christmas, but all year round. We will continue to support local authorities across the Food Active network to reduce children’s exposure to these events.