Friday, November 15, 2013

Coca-Cola's "Cap the Tap" campaign

The MyPlate consumer education materials (.pdf) from the U.S. government wisely encourage folks to "drink water instead of sugary beverages."

The message from beverage companies is something else altogether.

Through its "Cap the Tap" campaign and related materials, Coca-Cola encourages restaurants to talk customers out of choosing tap water and instead to choose higher-profit items such as Coke, Minute Maid juice, Dasani bottled water, or an alcoholic drink. I read about this campaign recently in a hard-hitting post by Andy Bellatti at Civil Eats. A related link to Coca-Cola's CokeSolutions website appears to be broken now, but I found you can still read about the company's message for restaurants on Google Cache. [Note 11/18/2013: the basic link to CokeSolutions is working.  Bellatti points out by Twitter that the "Cap the Tap" graphic from that site is only available now in a Huffington Post screenshot.  Nice work.]

Bellatti also linked to this great, blunt, fascinating page by graphic designer Pen Williamson, with proposed posters that Coca-Cola could use to get restaurants to discourage healthy and inexpensive tap water as a beverage choice [Note: this sentence edited slightly Nov 15 afternoon]. The poster suggests, "provide tap water to guests upon request only."  I don't know if this poster or another similar poster was used in Coca-Cola's "Cap the Tap" campaign.

There is nothing the government can or should do to restrict this type of marketing to restaurants. Yet, I think it is terrible marketing from a nutrition standpoint, which gives us useful context as we interpret the public policy debate over the potential role of beverage companies as part of the solution to the nation's health and nutrition challenges.

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