Coca Cola partners urged to stop marketing Capri-Sun drink to kids

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Campaigners in France have demanded that Coca Cola European Partners stops marketing its Capri-Sun drink to children, as pressure grows on EU food and drink companies to ditch the use of cartoon characters on products “loaded with sugar, salt or fat”.

Foodwatch France said the beverage is far too sweet for kids. Capri-Sun is often found in the fruit juice section of supermarkets, but contains “only 12% fruit juice concentrate”, Foodwatch said, “and 19 grams of sugar. This product is sweeter than an orange Fanta.”

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends banning children's advertising when products are too sweet or contain added sugar. This is the case of Capri-Sun Multivitamin,” the pressure group claimed.

In France, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) is responsible for the marketing and distribution of the product. The company said that, in line with the European Union of Soft Drinks Associations’ (UNESDA) charter, it does not carry out any marketing campaign for children under 12 years of age.

However, Foodwatch said the company’s use of cartoon characters on packaging, sponsored activities and messaging through social media shows it is “undeniably targeting the youngest”. 

The group has launched an online petition demanding that the product is no longer marketed to kids. Well over 3,600 have signed sinced the launch seven days ago.

Brand reaction

CCEP was surprised by the new campaign given the “transparent dialogue” it has had with Foodwatch this year.

A spokesperson said the company has taken a number of steps to ensure Capri-Sun is marketed responsibly to families. The sugar content is “clearly communicated” on pack, both per 100ml and per portion.

As signatories of UNESDA, CCEP has also pledged to reduce the added sugar content of all its drinks by 10% by 2020. We will reduce the sugar content of our classic range Multivitamin, Orange and Tropical drinks by 5% during the second half of 2017 as a first step. The remaining 5% will be cut by 2020,” the spokesperson explained.

CCEP also told FoodNavigator that the cartoon characters will soon be removed from packs. “We have been working for several months on producing new packaging (for the pouch and surrounding box) for Capri-Sun Multivitamin, which features no cartoon characters or games. It is due for launch after the summer break.”

Cut out the cartoons

Foodwatch’s campaign follows research by consumer group BEUC this month showing that cartoon characters are almost always used to push nutrient-poor products (according to WHO’s nutrient profile model).

An assessment by the group’s European members of around 100 products in 13 countries showed only one “child-friendly character” being used to promote fruit or vegetables – in the UK, Minions were on a tin of sweetcorn.

BEUC director-general Monique Goyens said using characters on packaging and in advertising to promote unhealthy foods “has to stop if we want to protect children’s health. National governments must push companies to use cartoons more responsibly,” she said.

Earlier this month Europe’s health ministers called for tougher laws on advertising of junk food to children, especially online and via social media. However, the emphasis by-and-large remains on self-regulation by industry.

Goyens called on Europe’s biggest food companies to “demonstrate a serious commitment to protecting children by removing these cartoons from unhealthy foods. We’re not calling for Tony the Tiger or the Minions to disappear from ads, we just want the products they promote to children to become healthier,” she added.

Childhood obesity is now considered one of the most pressing public health challenges of the 21st century. One in every three children in Europe aged between six and nine is overweight or obese.

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