Māori Public Health organisation Hāpai Te Hauora welcomes the move but says if Coca-Cola was serious about tackling the harm caused by its products, it would focus on the communities most affected by obesity and dental caries.
"Coca-Cola celebrate the growth in low and no-sugar products but it’s insincere for the company to claim a leadership role in this - it’s the consumers who have forced them to clean up their act," says Selah Hart, CEO of Hāpai Te Hauora. "This is a company that is motivated by profit and that’s the only thing they respond to. Anything else is window-dressing."
Hart urges caution before praising the company for the sugar reduction goal as there’s no sign that Coca-Cola is making any moves towards correcting health inequities in their ‘healthy lifestyles’ strategy.
"We know where the growth in low and no-sugar beverages is - it’s affluent communities who have the resources to influence change. In the supermarkets in our communities where whānau don’t have a lot of disposable income, there’s still an abundance of sugary drinks and it’s our kids whose teeth are falling out."
"We don’t just want to see a 20% reduction in sugar, we want to see a 20% tax on sugary drinks and 100% action on giving our least wealthy communities the same chance at living healthy lives as our richest."
This announcement comes on the eve of Hāpai Te Hauora’s annual summer Fizz Free Whānau challenge. Commencing on February 1, the challenge is a community-driven kaupapa now in its fourth year. Whānau commit to ditching sugary drinks for a month and Hāpai provides resources and a support network, alongside prizes for whānau who stay sugary drink free.
Fizz Free Whānau champion Graham Tipene says he’s been addicted to coke for most of his life but he’s determined to cut down for the sake of his whānau. Tipene made a Facebook post which has since gone viral, after subverting Coca-Cola’s Christmas promotion.
"They decided they would let anyone put any name they wanted on a bottle or can. I took up the offer and got Mate huka and Niho parau inscribed on the labels. That’s the truth of what the product does to us. I don’t think we should be out there celebrating having our names on something that is doing so much harm."
Tipene continues "Now they’re asking us to be impressed that their sales of bottled water are going up. Are they serious? They’re polluting our environment with plastic and making money off something that comes out of the tap, and we’re meant to be happy about it? It’s ridiculous."