June 16, 2008 —
Several months ago, we told you about the controversy surrounding Pepsi's youth marketing efforts in Mexico, where childhood obesity rates have been rising at alarming rates recently. The same trends hold true in many other Latin American countries, and other parts of the world that have only recently become inundated with cheap, high-fat, high-sugar junk foods produced by companies like PepsiCo. Now, it would appear that Coke and Pepsi are ready to enter a mutual disarmament pact of sorts, taking the first steps to put an end toward the marketing of junk food towards kids worldwide.
At the end of May, Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo quietly agreed to voluntarily adopt the International Council of Beverages' Guidelines on Marketing to Children. The guidelines—which are an extension of a 2006 agreement to stop marketing in schools and product placement within children's entertainment—suggest an international end to advertising geared towards any audience composed mostly of children, whether it be TV, print, internet, or radio.
In the fast food world, McDonalds has already taken the lead in altering its products and youth marketing efforts to promote a healthier lifestyle to kids, but few of its competitors have followed. It will be interesting to see whether a partnership between the two cola powers has more of an effect on their competitors, and whether it births further efforts to reverse the damage that the junk food industry has done to childhood health in the past.