Now in its seventh year, the Coca-Cola Christmas truck (lit up by 372 bulbs and 8,772 fairy lights) tours the UK in the run up to Christmas, ‘delivering Christmas cheer up and down the country’ and handing out 150ml cans of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Diet Coke or Coca-Cola Classic.
The truck has also launched in Australia this week for the first time, where Coca-Cola is partnering with the Salvation Army and ‘hopes to leave a lasting legacy with regional communities’. The campaign will gift each region legacy items for their town, such as lighting and sound equipment for a community music hall to a reusable outdoor cinema for remote far north Queensland.
The UK truck has come under repeated fire from health campaigners, notably a BMJ editorial in January.
Responding to the launch of the UK tour in Scotland this weekend, Dr Linda de Caestecker, director of public health at NHS (National Health Service) Greater Glasgow and Clyde called on the Coca-Cola truck to only offer sugar free drinks or water.
Dr de Caestecker says a small can of standard Cola contains almost the maximum daily amount of sugar recommended for small children – thus presenting a poor message to families.
“There is a lot of excitement for children when the Coca Cola festive truck visits towns up and down the country.
“We are asking Coca-Cola to stop promoting sugary drinks during the “Happy Holidays” truck tour and only distribute sugar-free drinks and water to the general public, in particular to children.
“We ask that Coca-Cola takes responsibility as an influential brand and support customers to make healthier choices.
"It is not just Coca Cola but all commercial organizations who can help tackle childhood obesity and put to rest the myth that ‘sugar free drinks are as bad or worse than sugary drinks’.”
Coca-Cola Truck UK
150ml cans of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Classic are handed out.
A 150ml can (which is around half the size of a standard 33ml can) of Coca-Cola Classic contains 15.9g of sugar (10.6g per 100ml).
NHS advises that children aged 4-6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day; children aged 7-10 should have no more than 24g, and adults no more than 30g.
A statement from Coca-Cola responded to say: “The Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour provides a moment of fun for everyone in the build-up to Christmas and we’ve had a positive response from many people to the news that it is coming to their town or city this year.
“The truck tour is a one off, annual event where we offer people a choice of 150ml samples of Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar or Diet Coke – so two of the three options are no sugar drinks.
"This is also reflected in the take-up of samples on the truck tour – with on average over 70% of what we sample being a zero sugar option.
“We also have a policy of not providing drinks to children under the age of 12, unless their parent or guardian is present and says they can have one.”
Coca-Cola also points to its other sugar reduction efforts: having reformulated 29 drinks since 2005 and reducing the sugar content in these by at least 30%. Smaller packs (i.e. 250ml) and traffic light nutrition labels on the front of packs have also been introduced.