If your products are blamed by health professionals for causing obesity and diabetes, you can probably do one of three things (aside from not selling them): 1) ignore the critics, 2) deny the evidence, or 3) work with the grain of modern opinion.
With its new Work It Out Calculator, Coca Cola is going with the last option. Instead of pretending its products aren’t at all harmful, it is saying they can still be enjoyed in moderation, and as part of an active lifestyle. The Calculator even tells you how much Zumba you need to do.
Since the enactment of Obamacare, we’ve become used to calorie counts (restaurant chains with more than 20 outlets must have them). But Coke’s Calculator goes further. Not only do you get the counts, you also get a read-out on the exercise you’ll need to do afterwards to wash away the effects of the calories you’ve consumed.
A classic red-and-white can (139 calories) equates to 51 minutes of vacuuming, 21 minutes of lawn-mowing, 34 minutes of table tennis, or 17 minutes of Zumba. A 12-ounce regular soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar.
If Sprite’s your thing (144 calories) you’ll need 13 minutes of circuit training, 41 minutes of window cleaning, or 33 minutes of pilates. And so on. There are even suggestions for when you drink a Slimline Tonic (no mention of the gin), or one of Glaceau’s "enhanced" waters (12 minutes of ping pong for a "Vitamin Water Power C").
The calculator is currently only on Coca Cola’s U.K. site—though, presumably, the calculations apply wherever its products are sold, and wherever there’s window-cleaning to be done.
"We want to help people understand how they can enjoy our beverages as part of a healthy balanced diet, while communicating the importance of being active," says spokesperson Laura Misselbrook.
The tool equips people with "the right information on their energy intake," she says, and reminds them "that all our products can be enjoyed in moderation when you measure energy in and out."
In the U.S., Coke is also taking part in a "Calories Count" pilot that will put "Calories Count—Check Before You Choose" stickers on its vending machines, and amounts next to the prices.
Given how the debate is going, Coke probably has little choice but to start speaking of moderation. Still, it’s a bit strange when a company feels the need to sell an antidote along with its product. After all, there’s an easier way to keep the weight off that doesn’t involve Zumba: not drinking the stuff in the first place.