Have a Coke and a Smile? Well maybe not.

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I read an interesting article in USAToday about the correlation between drinking soft drinks and violence. I could not believe the numbers but it is something to think about and perhaps after thinking about it make yourself a smoothie or something more healthy than a Coke.

Teens who drink lots of soda seem to be prone to violence, new research suggests. But the study authors concede that sodas are probably not the direct cause of the aggression.

While there’s a chance that the sugar and caffeine from carbonated drinks contributes to violent behavior, the study shows an association, not a cause-and-effect. Soda consumption, for example, may be a marker of heightened violent tendencies already present in the teen, or of poor parenting, the researchers said.

“Soda (could be) a red flag that is indicating something else is wrong,” said study co-author Sara Solnick, an associate professor of economics at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

The study is published in the Oct. 24 online issue of Injury Prevention.

The researchers asked high school students how many non-diet sodas they drank during the last week, as well as whether they carried a weapon or had been violent toward family members or peers.

Nearly 43% of teens who drank 14 or more cans of soda a week said they carried a weapon at some point, compared with 23% of teens who drank less than one can of soda a week.

The researchers also saw an association between soda and weapons even when kids drank less than 14 cans. About 33% of teens who drank two to four cans a week said they’d carried a knife or a gun at some point, as did 38% of teens who drank five to seven cans of soda.
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There was a similar “dose relationship” on other measures of violence. About 27% of teens who drank 14 or more cans of soda a week admitted to violence against a romantic partner, compared with 15% of those drinking less than one can a week.

And 59% of those drinking 14 or more cans a week had been violent toward peers, compared with 35% of those drinking one can or less. Teens who drank lots of soda were also more likely to be aggressive toward a sibling — 45% compared with 25% among teens who drank little soda.

The authors were able to control for a number of factors including gender, race and tobacco and alcohol use but not for some other important factors that could affect the likelihood of violence, such as quality of parenting and poverty.

Those who reported drinking lots of soda were also more likely to have also used alcohol or smoked cigarettes. Nearly 30% of the ninth- to 12th-graders said they drank more than five cans of soda a week.

It’s possible that the association is explained by the soda itself, researchers said. Teens who drink lots of soda could be missing important micro-nutrients found in healthier foods, according to background information in the study, or could be drinking soda to combat low blood sugar, which is linked to irritability or violence.

Soft drinks also contain sugar and caffeine, which might affect behavior.

But the studies on the effect of caffeine and sugar on behavior are inconclusive, said another expert. “There’s no definitive explanation that this explains how or if this might affect behavior,” said Alan Manevitz, a psychiatrist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Alternatively, “soda could be showing that this person is not having a healthy diet or they don’t have a great upbringing,” Solnick said. “Those things are connected to violence.”

In the study, the authors make mention of the infamous “Twinkie Defense” in which defendant Dan White was convicted only of voluntary manslaughter instead of homicide in the deaths of San Francisco city district supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1979.
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White’s lawyers argued that the crime wasn’t premeditated because White was hyped up on junk food and Coca-Cola.

Since then, other studies have further probed possible effects of unhealthy food, with one study finding poor mental health among Norwegian teens who drank a lot of soft drinks. Another study found antisocial tendencies among U.S. college students who consumed a lot of soda.

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The Real Thing? Mexican Coca-Cola.

After the New Coke debacle did Coca-Cola bring back the original formula when they introduced Classic? In a word, no.

Classic Coke is sweetened with HCFS, before New Coke the original formula used good old cane sugar.

In the 1980s, most major soda producers (and many food manufacturers) switched from using sugar as a sweetener to using high fructose corn syrup because it was both sweeter and cheaper than sugar. Due to the rising price of corn syrup, as well as increased consumer demand – primarily in the name of health – for sugar sweetened drinks, some manufacturers are considering a switch back to sugar. Others, like Jones Soda, have already done so.

As consumers, we don’t always have a choice when price is an issue, but let’s assume for a moment that all of our favorite drinks switch to sugar. Is this a good thing? If you have ever gone out to pick up extra packs of (kosher) Coke during Passover, when the sugar-sweetened version is put in stores, your answer is probably yes. But if you don’t like the taste of the version made with sugar, the possibility of a switch is less appealing.

Why am I just thinking about this now? Around this time of year in America, Coke puts out a special version of its flagship beverage that ostensibly is geared toward the Jewish population as its celebrates Passover. You’d be lucky to find any of it, though. It’s selling out everywhere it appears on supermarket shelves.yellowcoke
It’s not just the Jewish popualtion who love it, because Kosher Coke could actually be better called Real Sugar Coke. The standard American Coke is made with that dietary bugaboo high fructose corn syrup, but because the Jewish commandment is not to eat foods with leavening in them, corn’s out. So for observant customers, Coke (and Pepsi) makes special batches using real sugar. The taste difference is noticeable right away. It’s far better, like the Coke of your childhood.
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Because it is the Coke from your childhood. Coke phased out real sugar in the mid-’80s in favor of that industrial-grade, cheap sweeter that clutters our palettes in nearly everything we eat. A major reason New Coke failed is because it was around that time that Coke decided to switch out cane sugar for that processed glob HFCS; part of the disgust Americans felt for the new stuff was due to the fact we had been used to proper sugar before that.

Most times of year, those Coke fans in the know can obtain Coke made with real sugar by getting their hands on bottles made in Mexico. This so-called Mexican Coke is highly prized, and charged at a premium at gourmet stores and Latin grocery importers. In fact, many countries make “real” Coke, and it’s one of the unexpected pleasures of international travel that you can actually taste Coke as Coke was invented to be.
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Lots of other countries sell “the real thing,” too, including the United Kingdom — it’s just one more way that traveling Americans don’t realize they’re getting the shaft when it comes to food and infrastructure — but since Mexico is nearer, it’s easiest and cheapest for American consumers to get their hands on that.
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If this “healthier” Coke is such a big hit, and it’s clearly turning consumers on, then why doesn’t Coke just make it year-round? The simple answer is that HFCS is cheap. Last year, the Wall Street Journal predicted that higher corn prices would force the soda makers back to sugar, but so far, that hasn’t happened in the standard products, although Snapple recently announced that HFCS would get the heave-ho in a product makeover.

Instead, the soda makers are being tricky, and bringing sugar back mostly to products it charges more for. Pepsi and Mountain Dew have noticed the thirst for beverages that aren’t made with HFCS, and in response, this month it’s coming out with its line of sugar-based Throwback drinks. But like Kosher Coke, they are not promised to stay on shelves forever.

I don’t like HCFS, one of the least inventive and blandest ingredients on the menu, and it’s gotten to the point where I’m insulted when manufacturers think this low-grade sweetener is good for you. (The junk is in nearly every loaf of bread at the grocery store, and even in Newman’s Own lemonade, which you’d think would be more natural.) I don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to pay another nickel for my bottle of Coke if it meant it could be sweetened with real sugar. Either that, or I could convert or move to Mexico.

Coke and Clean Water

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It has been pointed out that Coke may be a bit insensitive selling Coke in small villages where the people are poor and may even have trouble getting clean drinking water…

I am guilty in part…it was my idea to deliver the Coke servings in cheap plastic bags with the logos printed on them. Villagers could simply pop a straw in the bag to drink…I did this so Coke could deliver a serving for less than 10 cents at the time making it easily available and affordable…the people are poor but not destitute.

I do think Coke does what it can to help in the areas that they operate…they believe in community. Here is just a small report about Coke’s commitment to the effort to supply clean water to the disaster areas around the globe.

When monkeys eat, they fill up their cheeks with excess food as temporary storage. This habit gave rise to the term “Monkey Cheeks,” a community water storage concept championed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej and supported by The Coca-Cola Foundation Thailand.
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A formal ceremony took place on November 22, in which the Project was handed over to residents in a rural area of Buriram Province, Northeastern Thailand. The Project was conducted this year in honor of the auspicious occasion of the 80th birthday anniversary of HM The King of Thailand.

Through the Monkey Cheeks Project, new water storage facilities, water filtration treatments, piping systems and distribution canals have been built in the Chumsang sub-district and Nongbot sub-district of Buriram. A total of seven Monkey Cheeks water storage facilities have been installed, with a combined capacity of 65,700 cubic meters.

Together, they are providing a long-term supply of clean water to households in the area. Like many rural villages in Northeastern Thailand, Chumsang sub-district and Nongbot sub-district have suffered from water shortages and a lack of clean drinking water. The new Monkey Cheeks water -retention devices now provide the villagers with a clean and sustainable water supply for agricultural and domestic use.

Besides the water storage facilities, The Coca-Cola Foundation Thailand has also helped to equip the local community with a GPS and satellite image mapping system that enables village members to view, plan and manage their water resources in an integrated and sustainable manner.
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In addition, Coca-Cola partnered with relief agencies on-site to provide immediate aid in the aftermath of the Tsunami, The most critical need in the aftermath of a disaster is the supply safe drinking water. Coca-Cola mobilized trucks and employees, who worked around the clock to distribute water to affected communities. They also provided other emergency supplies, such as food, medicine, blankets and tents, according to local need.

To date, the Coca-Cola system has contributed more than $20 million to the relief, recovery and long-term reconstruction of tsunami-affected areas. This includes cash contributions, in-kind support and employee donations. Coca-Cola also “loaned” an Asia-based manager to the United Nations Development Program for one year to support partnership efforts across the region..

Beyond providing immediate aid, their system continues to provide sustained support to reconstruction in disaster-affected communities. Projects are designed and implemented in close partnership with local authorities and community leaders to ensure local relevance, ownership and sustainability. To date, activities have been largely in tsunami-affected communities and have focused on infrastructure reconstruction.

Partnering with government agencies and NGOs to build schools and homes. Coca-Coal built 11 school buildings in Aceh, Indonesia, and provided vehicles and communications tools. In early 2006, they opened a micro-hydro power generator in the devastated area of Krueng Kala to provide a stable power supply.

Coca-Cola is also partnering with the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations Development Program on community-based water and sanitation reconstruction efforts in tsunami-hit areas of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Maldives.

In Thailand, they began community-based water resources management activities with the United Nations Foundation and a community wastewater treatment program with United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In Indonesia, their technical specialists helped conduct a hydrological survey by helicopter to assess freshwater resources in Aceh.

New Coke, “The Edsel of the 80’s”

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Years ago I worked at the advertising agency that handled the Coca-Cola account worldwide. I was on the project team for New Coke.

I am sure some of you may remember “New Coke.” Pepsi Cola-USA president Roger Enrico called it, “the Edsel of the 80’s.”

Coca-Cola was losing market share although Coke was beating Pepsi in distribution consumers were still buying based on price or availability. Clearly Pepsi was comparable if not better tasting in blind tests

The technical division created a formula of Coke that beat Pepsi in blind taste-tests, by as much as 6 to 8 points. Before, Pepsi had beaten Coke by anywhere from 10 to 15 points. This was an 18-point swing.

The blind tests yielded results that showed relatively high variances that gave management a high level of confidence that the sweeter product would ultimately yield stronger future sales.Market research revealed strong statistical data indicating a preference for a sweeter and slightly less carbonated product.

The data did not take into consideration some key points however in blind tests the data seemed to clearly point to a product reformulation. In tests where the customer knew which product was the original formula the results were skewed to favor the old formula.

The management did not in hindsight believe in the power of the brand. The taste question was crucial to Coke. But what Coca-Cola executives failed to realize is that there’s more to marketing soft drinks than winning taste tests. More than any other product consumers have an emotional attachment to their soft drink brand.

Mobile Telephony in Japan

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The mobile telephony landscape in Japan is very sophisticated and changes more rapidly than in any other country in the world.

New technologies have been introduced so that customers can use the phone almost with the same functionality of a credit card and certainly vendors have made mobile phones as functional as cash earning the nickname “e-wallet.”

A case in point the extensive train system throughout the country now allows its riders to board the train and pay for his or her fare at the seat. Scanning devices are above each seat next to the reading lamps.
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Even the common Coca-Cola vending machines accept the e-wallet that can be embedded in every mobile handset in Japan. There are over 1.5 million of these type vending machines.

The “Smart” pumps at Exxon Mobile stations, toll-booths on the freeway, theater tickets and so on are all mobile phone payment accessible. Clients cannot afford not to explore this opportunity before their competitors embark on a faster track to potential consumers.

Toward that end it is extremely important that brands deliver a snapshot of the relevant mobile or m-commerce and securities technologies and how they could impact the future development of their businesses.

Craig Courter, COO of Baker McKenzie, said, “We live in an ideas jungle…. the most important skill a project manager can bring to bear is the ability to sort, categorize and prioritize all of the ideas…only then can you implement a change that truly advances your strategy.” In the mobile telephony industry there is truly a jungle of new ideas.