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Coca-Cola puts calorie information out front: Why it's smart

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Coca-Cola plans to put calorie information on the front of all product packaging by the end of 2011. Will it matter to consumption? Probably not with the right packaging.

Coca-Cola plans to put calorie information on the front of all product packaging by the end of 2011. Will it matter to consumption? Probably not with the right packaging.

And that's why it's so smart.

Coca-Cola is currently rolling out calorie counts on the front labels in the U.S., but has already completed the deployment in Europe, Australia and Mexico.

Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola, said in a statement that the company is taking leadership as the "world's most valuable brand." The company argues that its calorie disclosures will help people balance their dietary intake.

So why is this so smart? After all, one survey found that calorie counts, which are mandatory in New York City restaurants, do impact consumer decisions. Won't we just drink less soda if we know the calories? Not quite.

The reason: Smaller packages. If you haven't noticed packages in the grocery store have become smaller across the board. There are 100-calorie snack packs everywhere. Smaller packages means fewer calories (unless you're like me and simply eat five small snack packs). Coca-Cola is also on that bandwagon. You can't buy Coca-Cola shots---yet---but the small bottles abound.

And here's where the business sense comes in: Unit costs. As noted by Consumer Reports, you could buy a big bag of pretzels divvy them up into small packages (equating to 100 calories) for less than what you'd pay for a snack pack. Consumer Reports notes:

If you can buy snacks in their regular packages and use an ounce of willpower, your wallet will stay fatter.

There are other perks of the Coca-Cola move:

  • Calorie counts on the front of packages are a great defense when Congress gets tax happy and goes after all junk food.
  • Coca-Cola is out front of a big issue for its business.
  • The move puts the onus on the consumer to be responsible (like who doesn't know that drinking a 2-liter bottle of Coke will put on a few pounds?).

What's your analysis?

Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure