The 'Sugary Drinks' Interview: Behind The Scenes

In 2012, USAToday put ‘hard questions’ to a Coca-Cola executive before her speech at a Beverage Digest conference. ‘Edited for clarity and space,’ the interview was so misleading that it would be satirical…if most people didn’t believe it was true. Catalyst has recently uncovered the original transcript (edited for clarity and space.) :
Barbie coke
Interviewer: Your job position is “President and general manager of sparkling beverages.” What does that entail?
Executive: It’s really, really hard. Really. Most people could never play this much beach volleyball.
You say that sugary drinks like Coke can be part of a balanced diet. Would you like to expand on that?
Well, we think that calories in should equal calories out. For instance, a young Kenyan child who runs 10 miles to school and back every day could drink a Coke for breakfast, and they still wouldn’t become obese. So you have to be aware of the spin that Big Science puts on their ‘facts.’
What of the argument that Coke is just ’empty calories?’
“Empty calories are a myth, like unicorns. And calculus.”
I have to admit, for a person who drinks Diet Coke for breakfast, you look a few years younger than 45. Maybe 40, but not 45.
(Reaches across the table) – I think I got some cigarette ash on there. I’m 25. Anyway, it’s all about balance. You have to have balance in your meals.”
You mean like carbohydrates, proteins and fats?
No, I mean like good and evil. You ever see that Yin and Yang thing? That’s the next food pyramid, as far as we’re concerned. (nods sagely)
So what would be the nutritional balancer for Coke?
Synthetic insulin.
How much Coke should a kid drink per day, then?
Well, Coke has 140 calories, the same as a lunchbox-sized bag of pretzels.
And how many pretzels should a kid eat per day?
(looks off camera) …uh, ALL of them. All of the pretzels.
Do you mean a bag of pretzels that fits into a lunchbox?
No, silly. A bag of pretzels the size of a lunchbox. (rolls eyes)
How about your own kids? How much Coke do they drink per day?
Well, if they have a three-hour lacrosse practice, we go straight to McDonald’s and get them a sixteen-ounce cup of Gatorade, because I’m a responsible parent. Hydration is the biggest problem in America today.
And how often would your kids have a three-hour lacrosse practice?
Oh, they don’t play lacrosse. Do yours? (puzzled look)
Okay, school boards and now whole municipalities are banning Coke because of its high sugar content. Are their fears accurate?
No. We stopped using so much sugar a long time ago. Those South American farmers wanted too much mon…I mean, healthy. Healthy, healthy, healthy.
But you’re using corn syrup now, which critics say is much worse.
That’s not what Daddy says. But the important part is that Coke gives kids an energy boost before school or sports or texting.
Does the high caffeine content of Coke products also play a role there?
I don’t think so. Do you like dogs? Once I saw a dog with blue hair…or maybe it was riding in a blue car. A Ford Focus. Yes, I’d say that Coke helps you focus. Purple monkey dishwasher.
How do you get your eyes to roll in different directions like that?
It’s part of my exercise regimen. Like the jitters. Burns calories. I also do a lot of finger-crossing to tone and firm my knuckles.
And you smoke.
Yes, but that’s for my ‘core.’
How has Coke’s marketing message changed to address these new health concerns?
Well, in the old days, anyone who tried Coca-Cola instantly became a lifetime user. We had great customer retention. But when we had to take the cocaine out, we wanted to replace it with something equally exciting; that’s when we came up with with corn syrup. Did you know amphetamines are illegal?
Oh. Well, corn syrup is cheaper anyway, thanks to corn subsidies.
But doesn’t that make the soda too sweet for anyone to drink it?
That’s why we add salt. We actually spend more on salt every year than sweetener. That’s what people should really be worried abou…uh, nothing.
If Mayor Bloomberg were sitting across the table from you now, what would you say to him?
I’d tell him to go back to Russia and get his hands off our livers.
Does Coke hurt your liver? Why did you say that?
I didn’t say livers. I said slivers. Coke turns us into skinny slivers. Like models.
Sounds legitimate to me.

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