I Used to Work at Coca-Cola. What I Saw Horrified Me

Like an over-shaken can, outrage is spilling everywhere today. An investigation by The Times has outlined how Coca-Cola spends millions of dollars every year trying to disprove the un-disprovable.

Frankly, anyone gullible enough to believe any ‘research’ suggesting cans of fizzy sugar don’t make you fat is an idiot, but that’s not the real problem here. The real problem is what Coca-Cola do day in day out, and nobody bats an eyelid.

When I was offered my first ‘proper job’ in 2009 it was, for my sins, with Coca-Cola Enterprises (the then UK arm of the Coca-Cola company).  I was a territory sales rep.  With a van full of all the drinks I used to guzzle as a kid (Fanta, Sprite, Capri Sun, and, of course, the rainbow of Coke varieties) I set off with joy to my ‘patch’ to sell, sell, sell.

It took all of two days for my enthusiasm to be completely annihilated.

In my branded transit I approached my third store of day two.  My objective was clear: get to know my customer, get to know their customers, sell them everything they need and then sell them everything they don’t.  On arrival at the petrol station forecourt, to my utter dismay, I spotted a young boy, probably no older than fourteen.  Fourteen years old, and about fourteen stone.  Dressed in his repulsive fluorescent school uniform, his face was flushed red from the almost impossible task of standing upright.  In his hand?  A two litre bottle of Sprite.  The sugar content of which is 136 grams.  That’s 144 per cent of his daily recommended amount – and there were numerous 4 packs of those on my ‘for sale’ list.

I had become the conduit for obesity, and it felt awful.

So this went on – day after day, month after month.  Each month a new target, new product or new initiative to ‘sell in’ to my 144 customers.  Each individual drink noted, tallied and scored by the great Coke computer back at base.  Any drink went off sale and there were investigations to be made.  Any none-Coke products in a Coke fridge and the company could send threatening letters to a struggling corner shop owner.  It doesn’t matter that a product may not be selling; they are contractually obliged to fill their fridge with, basically, whatever Coke tells them to.

Then came the new golden boy of pop: the energy drink.  Since the advent of Red Bull, the sector was growing by hundreds of percentage points year on year and showed no signs of slowing down.

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