Coca-Cola’s Battle vs. Obesity and What You Can Learn From It

Coca-Cola wants you to believe that its sugary drinks are not the cause of health problems for Americans, such as obesity or Type 2 diabetes. Instead, the beverage maker has sponsored its own research, which points a finger at a sedentary lifestyle, with the best science money can buy. Here’s what your business can learn from it.

Over the past several years, Coca-Cola has donated millions of dollars to the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a non-profit that is attempting to redirect the conversation on America’s obesity crisis.

In a recent video announcing the new organization, GEBN’s Vice President Steven N. Blair, had this to say: “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, Oh they’re eating too much…blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks…there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.” Coca-Cola would prefer those looking for answers to America’s obesity epidemic to focus more on exercise habits (or lack thereof) than calorie consumption.

Coca-Cola’s funded research and statistical analysis of the obesity problem in America may have more in common with mistakes businesses make in their performance measurement practices than you think.

If you try hard enough, you’ll see what you want to see (and ignore the rest). GEBN’s Blair maintains that a lack of data exists to place any blame on sugary drinks: “We want data…not just any data, actual data.” Never mind the excess of evidence pointing to the contrary. Winston Churchill famously said, “I only believe in statistics that I doctored myself.” Many business’s fall into the trap of focusing on KPIs that put their performance in the best light possible, omitting metrics that may paint a “not-so-bright” picture.  Organizations must establish clear strategic and operational goals and choose the KPIs which best reflect those goals, regardless of how good or bad they look.

Bad decisions are based on bad metrics. Funding from the food industry is not uncommon in scientific research. A recent analysis of beverage studies found that those funded by Coca-Cola, others in the beverage industry were five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies whose authors had no financial conflicts. A good corporate strategic plan includes a solid set of accurate, reliable, and accountable KPIs that can translate strategy into manageable operational actions.

With over 25 years’ experience consulting with industry-leading companies, Talley & Company and our affiliate Group 11 Advisors are committed to provide clear, knowledgeable and applicable financial data and analysis solutions, enabling management to intelligently track performance, progress and profits. To determine whether your business is taking advantage of all metrics available to make the most informed decisions for future success, schedule a time to talk with us today.