Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 3:19 am | Fair 45º


Jim Hightower: Coca-Cola’s Conspiracy Against Tap Water

Coca-Cola is running a stealth advertising campaign.

Stealth? Yes, it's a nationwide product promotion that's being run below the public radar! Why would a corporation as ad-dependent as Coke spend big bucks on advertising that it doesn't want consumers to notice? Shhhh, because the campaign is a surreptitious ploy to enlist restaurants in a marketing conspiracy that targets you, your children and — of course — your wallet.

Coke calls its covert gambit "Cap the Tap," urging restaurateurs to stop offering plain old tap water to customers: "Every time your business fills a cup or glass with tap water, it pours potential profits down the drain." Cap the Tap can put a stop to that, Coke says, "by teaching (your) crew members or waitstaff suggestive selling techniques to convert requests for tap water into orders for revenue-generating beverages."

The program provides a guide for restaurant managers who agree to direct Coke's sneak attack on customers. It also supplies a handy backroom poster to remind waitstaff "when and how to suggestively sell beverages," plus a participant's guide to put "suggestive selling" foremost in mind as staff confronts the enemy ... uh, I mean customers. Tactics include outflanking those recalcitrant customers who insist on water. Just switch the sales pitch to bottled water — remember, Coca-Cola also owns Dasani, one of the top-selling brands of bottled water in the United States.

Early in its Cap the Tap scheme, the beverage behemoth offered two incentive programs for waitstaff: "Suggest More and Score" and "Get Your Fill." Both were competitions meant to spur servers to push more Coke on American restaurant-goers.

To add a splash of bitter irony to this campaign, Coke's CEO recently declared that "obesity is today's most challenging health issue," adding piously that solving it requires "all of us working together and doing our part." Really, by selling more Coke? That's proof that hypocrisy is now the official rocket fuel of corporate profits.

For even more proof, check out the Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness. Sounds like a spa in Aspen where you might enjoy a cleansing regimen of organic Aloe vera smoothies and biodynamic wine, doesn't it? But, no, it's a hokey "science" front owned and run by Coca-Cola. The world's largest beverage purveyor wants you to be assured that none of its sugary, empty-calorie or artificially sweetened concoctions are a cause of obesity. Hey, Coke's instituters shout, three or more colas a day are simply part of an integrated, healthy diet — for children and adults alike!

"There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity," a top Coke executive snapped. Uh, actually, nutritionists disagree, pointing to all the empty calories in Coke's syrupy concoctions. The exec had a simple response to that: "We don't believe in empty calories."

Oh, well, then — OK. But, in the off chance that you might want a more independent scientific source, try the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, billed as the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. But wait. While the academy is not owned by Coke, it does lease out its integrity to the cola giant. Coca-Cola is listed on the academy's website as a generous sponsor and "partner" in its scientific work.

In fact, the academy certifies Coke's Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness as an official provider of "continuing education" for registered dieticians. How neat — a corporation that profiteers by peddling nutritionally worthless and health-endangering products finances the academic outfit that's most responsible for educating Americans about healthy foods. And that academy, in turn, embraces the corporate fiction that sugary drinks pose no health problems.

That's not irony; it's shameful corruption. The greatest obesity crisis in America is not the cola itself, but the fatheaded ethics of single-minded corporate profit-seekers and their apologists.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JimHightower, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >