Protesters gathered outside the Coca-Cola offices in Rosebank where they demanded that the firm stop advertising and selling its products at schools. Picture: Thembelihle Mkhonza/ANA

Johannesburg - About 30 protesters on Tuesday gathered outside the Coca-Cola company offices in Rosebank where they demanded that the international drinks firm stop advertising and selling its sugary products at schools.

Members of the Healthy Alliance (HEALA) were protesting against Coca-Cola because they said its drinks have too much sugar.

The protesters demanded that Coca-Cola stop the supply of sugary beverages in school settings, cease advertising its products to children and also immediately remove all billboards and mass advertising targeted at children.

Executive Director Sbongile Nkosi said in March this year HEALA conducted a "survey audit" in Gauteng and it showed that Coca-Cola has not fulfilled the commitment to stop advertising and selling sugary drinks to children.

"We are here today to hold Coca-Cola accountable and ask why are they not honouring the pledge that they made," Nkosi said.

Protesters gathered outside the Coca-Cola offices in Rosebank where they demanded that the firm stop advertising and selling its products at schools. Picture: Thembelihle Mkhonza/ANA


She said in 2009, through the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa and 2012 at the European Union (EU), Coca-Cola made a pledge to stop advertising to children, however, this pledge has not been fully honoured in South Africa.

"In South Africa, the presence of sugar-sweetened beverages has contributed to a 13 per cent prevalence of overweight and obesity in children, and about 40 per cent in women and 13 per cent in men," said Nkosi.

Protesters gathered outside the Coca-Cola offices in Rosebank where they demanded that the firm stop advertising and selling its products at schools. Video: Thembelihle Mkhonza/ANA


"The government should do something about this because the percentage is rapidly growing, and our health care system is overburdened with the rise in non-communicable disease (NCDs) such as diabetes and stroke. Diabetes is currently the second leading cause of death in South Africa.” 

Nkosi said South African children were still exposed to Coca-Cola’s mass advertising billboards in schools, in their homes, on social media and in-store too. 

She said the consequence was that South Africa’s children were developing life-threatening NCDs at a very young age.

Commenting on the matter, Coca-Cola public affairs and communication head for South Africa, Asia Sheik, said: “We have a responsible marketing policy that was launched in 2009 and it is a global policy ...  we do not market it to children under the age of 12 and in 2016 we introduced a guideline to schools".

"More than 50 per cent of our signboards have been removed from schools ... we have partnered with schools and government in removing our signed boards from schools. We believe in partnerships," said Sheik.  

However, Nkosi said if Coca-Cola does not honour "the pledge" within two weeks, HEALA will ask the SA government to introduce regulation that is going to make sure that marketing of sugary drinks to children is banned.

African News Agency (ANA)