Would we Stop Buying Coke if it was Healthier?

Erik's picture

It looks like our shops' shelves are full of poison, and I am not referring to those at the Sunset Strip in 1980's. Over the weekend, it was proven that products from the world's largest dairy exporter in New Zealand were contaminated with botox. In my home country of Slovakia, it is almost weekly practice that the supermarkets apologize to the customers and ask them to return suspicious goods for a refund.

At the moment, many people are pushed by the economic situation and have no other option but to choose the cheaper option at the supermarket. They help their wallets in the short term, but can end up paying for it twofold in the long term.

First of all, cheaper suppliers often do not give as much attention to quality and safety standards in order to push the price down. Food might contain more preservatives and harmful substances than allowed. It can result in food poisoning scandals, but more likely, will simply accumulate in the body and require a doctor's attention later. Many preservatives are toxic and such waste does no good to the organism that is your body.

Secondly, by going for the cheaper option we encourage the risky businesses in their get-rich-quick schemes. Those who produce cheaply by circumnavigating the standards know that they can't stay on the market for long. Look on the shelves again. The transparent big brands have been there for years, but many smaller substitutes disappear after a season or two.

The owners make a profit and withdraw production. Sometimes it is like poker. You have to withdraw in time and avoid losses (due to the food poisoning, for example). If we all went for the quality, the small businesses would be cornered out. Moreover, the big brands could lower the prices thanks to the increased demand.

The Coca Cola Brand

The above would work only in an ideal world. People are ruled by crowd psychology. In reality, the big brands keep their prices constant because their loyal customers won't turn their back.

Let's take Coca Cola. Most people would buy it even if a smaller fizzy drink manufacturer with lower prices enters the market. But why? There have been lots of rumour and law suits over the dangerous health effects of Coca Cola and yet it is the bestselling drink in the US. It is the power of the brand and the culture that sells, not the nutrition. Just to point out, it is the high sugar content that makes coke unhealthy, not poor safety standards.

But if Coca Cola changed the composition so that it was healthier, would they see an increase of profit? I think, not. Making coke "healthier" would do away with sugar or artificial sweeteners (Diet Coke is the second most popular) and the taste that sells would be lost. Ironically, the profits of the cheaper drinks that are probably even worse for your body would rise.

To get around this ‘problem' the Coca Cola company took a share in companies producing ‘healthier' drinks (for example CorePower protein shakes) in order to offer more positive goods. Maybe, they have to invest in the shares and distribution, but the return on investment is definitely an asset.

Erik Redli is a university graduate from Slovakia who is currently living in London. Read more of his posts here.

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