Since 1995, Coca-Cola’s Christmas truck advertisement has delighted kids and adults alike, signalling the start of Christmas for many in the UK and Ireland with the famous “Holidays are Coming” chant.
The iconic truck embarks on an annual tour of Britain and Ireland handing out cans of Coke to members of the public. However, this year the soft drinks giant has scaled back the tour in the UK after receiving criticism from health campaigners.
The truck has reduced its tour to 24 stops, down from 42 locations last year. Sugar Smart, a campaign of Sustain to reduce over-consumption of sugar, called on the company to stop handing out free sugary drinks.
“Despite the well-documented child health crisis with 1 in 3 children leaving primary school obese or overweight, with soft drinks being the single largest contributor to children’s sugar intake, Coca-Cola are stopping in locations with some of the worst diet-related health problems,” Sugar Smart said in a petition asking supermarkets not to host the beverage truck.
General Manager, Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland Jon Woods responded with an open letter to Sugar Smart and Sustain highlighting the efforts Coca-Cola has made in reducing sugar in its drinks.
Since 2005 Coca-Cola has launched 34 new drinks with low or no sugar and now sells more Coca-Cola without sugar than with sugar. For every sparkling drink Coca-Cola sells, there is a sugar-free alternative available.
“You asked me specifically about the Coca-Cola Truck Tour and to not make regular Coca-Cola available on it. I do not plan to do this. This annual event is something that our consumers love and enjoy, and I feel we run it in a responsible way,” Woods said in the letter.
Woods expects 90 per cent of the drinks handed out on the tour this year to be zero sugar.
“The statistics you share are concerning reading for all of us. However, the fact is that all of the steps we, and other soft drinks manufacturers have taken mean that sugar consumption from soft drinks is now lower than at any time since 1992,” Woods added.
He said that for a few weeks of the year thousands of consumers love and enjoy the Christmas truck tour.
“As long as consumers want it we will continue to run it,” Woods said.
The Irish tour does not appear to have been affected as it returns for its eight year in the country with 11 stops planned.