By Anna Louie Sussman
When it comes to doing good, the big beverage companies are acting globally. Some, notably The Coca Cola Company, have made women the centerpiece of their corporate social responsibility. Coca Cola’s 5by20 initiative aims to empower women "across the value chain," from farmers to suppliers to retailers. Kraft and Unilever have partnered with the World Food Program to fund Project Laser Beam, which helps women farmers have acess to seeds, fertilizer, and loan credits. Nestle also helps female farmers access markets in India and Morocco, and assists women entrepreneurs in starting and operating their own businesses, including Nescafe street carts, across Africa and the Caribbean, and in Brazil and Thailand.
Back at home, beverage companies have typically approached women with diet products, on the assumption that "women are watching their weight and guys have beer bellies," as Mike Weinstein, former CEO of Snapple and chairman of Inov8 Beverage Company, put it. "There’s been a lot of research that if you put the word ‘diet’ on a product, it skews female."
So much so that when Dr. Pepper released its low-calorie "Ten" soda, it had to warn the ladies explicitly to stay away. During televised sporting events, it ran an ad combining every cliché of machismo, which culminated with the admonition, "It’s not for women." According to Weinstein, historically, soda drinkers are 55 percent male, although women purchase about 60 percent of beverages for households.
That’s just one of the beverage industry’s many missteps with consumers, which largely center around ill-conceived or misleading marketing efforts. In 2011, Jones Soda Co. launched an ad featuring a golliwog and a coolie, while V8’s fruit juice beverages, owned by Campbell Soup Company, have come under fire from consumer groups for their deceptive labels, which bill the sugary drinks as healthy and antioxidant-laden. Even bottled water has come under fire for millions of discarded plastic bottles.
Anna Louie Sussman is a business and economics reporter based in New York. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Master's in Business and Economics Reporting from New York University.
Image: public domain
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