ATLANTA — In a sign of how health concerns have shaken the beverage industry, Coca-Cola Co. used a boisterous anniversary celebration on Wednesday to pledge to make low-calorie drinks and clearer nutritional information more available across the world.
“We’re beginning the next phase of our journey to promote better health and well-being,” said Coca-Cola Chief Executive Muhtar Kent.
The soft drink industry has been under fire as sugary high-calorie drinks are linked to increased obesity rates, and Coca-Cola has recently stepped up efforts to emphasize healthier lifestyles.
On Wednesday, the company’s 127th anniversary, Coca-Cola unveiled its strategy. Kent said it would offer low and no-calorie drinks in every market, provide nutritional information on all of its packaging, invest in physical activity programs, and restrict all marketing to children under 12 years old.
“This is an evolution, not a revolution,” Kent said. “This is just a next step. In a way, think of it as a down payment in our ongoing journey.”
Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, who was on hand for the event, praised the company’s effort.
“Industry has the power to communicate and make resources available to encourage people to be more physically active,” said Satcher. “We have a major problem in this country, and we’ve got to educate our children to make healthy choices.”
The strategy is part of a long-term positioning by Coca-Cola to encourage better habits, partly so that customers are healthy enough to continue drinking both the company’s sugary drinks and its more nutritious options, industry experts said.