Time for some updates — and questions — on yesterday’s news that Coca-Cola and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are parting ways in December.
As we suspected from the adoring tone in AND’s letter to the House of Delegates about this development (the letter ended with a list of AND initiatives and programs Coca-Cola supported), it was Coca-Cola’s decision to exit.
The reason? According to Coca-Cola: budget and funding. Really? Coca-Cola’s annual contributions to AND were approximately $350,000 — pocket change for the soda giant.
“Coca-Cola Co. isn’t renewing its financial sponsorship of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, part of a broader funding review at Coke after critics accused the beverage giant of trying to downplay the role of sugary drinks in obesity. The move also comes after the health group came under fire in recent years for accepting millions of dollars from large food and drink companies,” Mike Esterl reported in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, it seems like other AND sponsors are here to stay.
Esterl writes: “PepsiCo said it has a “significant and growing nutrition business” and that its participation in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics helps the company learn more about health and wellness issues.”
While we do wish this “conscious uncoupling” had been initiated by AND leadership — not only as a way for AND to place itself as a forward-thinking and leading group, but also as a way to show that it listens to its concerned constituents — the fact remains that this year’s conference will be free of Coca-Cola and that, moving forward, so will the public face of AND.
Coca-Cola’s exit is undoubtedly the direct result of increased scrutiny about its ties to health organizations. Countless advocates have raised that red flag for years, but we believe a special tip of the hat goes to Anahad O’Connor of The New York Times for his recent coverage of the Coca-Cola funded Global Energy Balance Network (and friend-to-DFPI Dr. Yoni Freedhoff for bringing that story to his attention).
In the meantime, we have some related questions. Among them:
1) What was the return on investment on Coca-Cola’s funding of AND (when answering this question, the immense hit AND’s reputation has taken as a result of Coca-Cola’s sponsorship must be taken into account)?
2) Will Coca-Cola’s Health & Wellness Beverage Institute continue to be an accredited provider of continuing education for RDs?
3) Does AND leadership truly buy PepsiCo’s line about its ‘growing nutrition business’? Furthermore, can’t PepsiCo learn about health and wellness issues without having a financial stake in AND?
More to come, we’re sure. Onward.