Colin Bradley, The Coca-Cola Company’s Balance Calories Initiative (BCI) Program Manager in East Los Angeles, may work for the Coke team, but seeing only Coca-Cola red on store shelves isn’t what drives him.
It’s the increasing amount of diversity the company is bringing to the market – the silvers, and blacks and the dozens of other colors that denote The Coca-Cola Company’s low- and no-calorie beverage options and the smaller, convenient sizes.
Bradley’s vision is part of BCI, an industry effort in which The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group have committed to reducing beverage calories from sugar consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. Through this initiative, Bradley works to get a variety of low- and no-sugar beverages on store shelves in the East L.A. market and then to make sure that consumers are aware of the available choices.
“The Coca-Cola Company is building its business in the East Los Angeles market to have a balanced beverage choice for consumers here," he explains.
With the support of the local customers and Coca-Cola bottler, he is working to achieve the industry’s aggressive goal in five key ways.
1. Low/No Sugar Availability
With 250 of The Coca-Cola Company’s 800 beverages sold in the U.S. being low or no sugar, consumers have a wide array of refreshment choices. More than just Diet Coke and Coke Zero Sugar, Coca-Cola sells a variety of sparkling and still waters, vitaminwater zero, Powerade Zero, Minute Maid juices, organic teas and more with low and no calories or sugar. Under Bradley’s watch, East L.A.’s BCI stores are moving towards at least a third of total cases on shelves dedicated to these beverages.
2. Small Pack Availability
With 60 percent of The Coca-Cola Company’s U.S. brands now available in 8.5-oz. (or less) packages, the company offers smaller packaging to provide consumers the option of reducing consumption of added sugar through portion control. From 7.5-oz. mini cans to 8-oz. glass bottles, consumers have the ability to choose the portion that’s right for them. Sales of mini-cans of Coca-Cola have continued to grow at double-digit rates in the United Sates as people opt for 90-calorie servings of Coca-Cola that previously were not as widely available.
3. Product Positioning
Product positioning within the store is a critical component of The Coca-Cola Company’s BCI strategy. Simple placement of product in a key location can make a big difference in prompting consumers to try a low- or no-sugar product. For example, by placing low- and no-sugar beverages directly behind the handles on self-serve coolers, they are the first beverages people can reach for when grabbing a drink. In addition, by placing no-calorie beverages such as Dasani Sparkling in produce sections, the company is reinforcing the message that low- and no-calorie drinks can be flavorful beverage alternatives.
4. Bundle Offers
Through in-store "bundles," the company is increasing options for people to try low- and no-sugar brands with their meals. For example, ZICO coconut water might be paired with bananas to encourage hydration and nourishment post-exercise. Restaurant menu boards are increasingly recommending pairing meals with low- and no-calorie beverages.
5. Shopper Communication
Promotional communication with shoppers in East L.A. stores has been increasingly designed to include more low- and no-sugar beverages or small package options. To reinforce this message and drive consumer demand, Coca-Cola hosts community-event sampling both in and out of store, where consumers have the opportunity to learn about and try a variety of Coca-Cola products. Partnering with radio personalities and showcasing these products at local festivals, Coca-Cola ensures customers know about the diverse beverage options available. This awareness encourages consumers to find new favorite reduced- or zero-sugar refreshments.
For Bradley, these steps are not just supporting customers in East L.A. – they’re steps supporting the community.
“This community is near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I've lived in the L.A. area my whole life, and to see East L.A. get this kind of calorie awareness, is exciting. The East L.A. market is making a choice, a big shift in its culture, in its community, and we're helping them make balanced calorie choices during that shift. This is really the future of beverage companies; it's the future of Coca-Cola; it's the future of East L.A.”
To witness this transformation of the beverage industry, people don’t need to live in East L.A. or other test markets like Little Rock, Ark., Montgomery-Lowndes, Ala.; the Mississippi Delta or Bronx-Brooklyn, N.Y. While these markets serve as a testing ground, the industry is learning how such BCI programs can be scaled nationally. This means consumers should be noticing some of these strategies showing up in a market near them.
In a recent op-ed, American Beverage Association CEO Susan Neely acknowledged that the industry’s work to achieve its BCI target is a challenge, but that its members are committed to the work ahead.
“We recognize that the task ahead of us is not easy,” she said. “But if fierce competitors like Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper can work together, then surely we can find a way to partner with members of the public health community who also want meaningful solutions to obesity.”
UPDATE: With the 2016 BCI Progress report now available, the most significant calorie reductions are being seen in East Los Angeles. In that market, total beverage calories per person per day decreased by 3.5 percent in 2015 and 5 percent in 2016.