As the governments of the developed world eye galloping health trends with trepidation, the use of shock advertising is on the increase, its aim to jolt consumers into reconsidering their lifelong consumption habits. I wonder at the real impact of this type of communication and whether in fact food and drink manufacturers are playing a loud enough role in inspiring healthier consumption.
“Sexing up the good stuff is what a responsible industry does”
No question any more, there is a global obesity crisis, largely caused by excessive sugar intake - a problem soft drinks have played a considerable part in creating. In the UK, 67% of men and 57% of women are either overweight or obese, according to the Global Burden of Disease study. More than a quarter of children are also overweight or obese. The research also indicated taking in excessive sugar is more liable to make you fat than consuming fat.
As the message about sugar seeps through, carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) have come under fire and there is declining consumption frequency. At the same time, there is also a growing distrust of artificial sweeteners like aspartame. This has given rise to a correlating increase in sales of water, sparkling water and flavoured sparkling water, the new heroes of the soft drinks sector.
And sexing up the good stuff is part of what a responsible industry does. We recently carried out a study that revealed 49% of UK parents don’t give their kids water at mealtimes. Why? To avoid the additional stress this would create, even though 70% of those parents are aware of the high sugar in the alternatives.
In the same study, 45% of parents claimed one way to persuade their children to drink more water was to make it sparkling, so we created our Water Made Exciting push, which hones in on the parental battles around serving water to kids and the positive response to SodaStream.
We’re also responding to consumer preferences for natural sweeteners and have worked hard to identify ingredient combinations that deliver fantastic taste and sweetness without aspartame. The new SodaStream Flavours portfolio has been formulated and designed from scratch to deliver taste with a high percentage of natural ingredients and low or zero sugar content.
We hope we’re inspiring better choices through consumer-focused products and insightful advertising instead of shock tactics and a one-dimensional product solution.
The recent This Girl Can campaign by Sport England and FCB Inferno is a wonderful example of inspiring positive behaviour, or at least seeding it, by tapping into a genuine and emotional insight about women and exercise. The output is joyful and rewarding for the viewer and, as such, very likely to inspire the desired behaviour.
The soft drinks industry has some of the most exciting and powerful brands in the world - and some of the most deadly. It also has some of the sharpest minds and most inspirational operators. I wonder if it is also brave enough to make the healthiest products the most desirable and inspire the improved health of generations.
This industry certainly can - but will it?
Fiona Hope is managing director at SodaStream UK