Former Coke Executive Slams ‘Share of Stomach’ Marketing Campaign
Todd Putman stepped up to a podium Thursday ready to break with his past.
Stretched before him was a ballroom full of public health officials and community activists, gathered in Washington for a “National Soda Summit” on how to loosen the soda industry’s grip on the American appetite.
The conference marked the latest salvo in a barrage of recent attacks on makers of unhealthy food and beverages, especially sodas.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) has announced plans to ban super-size sodas from his city’s restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and bodegas. Disney will no longer run junk-food ads with its children’s programming. First lady Michelle Obama’s book about the White House vegetable garden, released Tuesday, notes that the only drinks offered during family meals at home are milk and water.
The logic behind these moves has been repeated so often it is practically a mantra: The nation is in the throes of an obesity crisis and sodas account for an outsize share of the sugar pouring into American bellies.
Putman, 51, shares that view. But he is also driven by another motive: From 1997 to mid-2000, he was a top marketing executive at Coca-Cola.
“It took me 10 years to figure out that I have a large karmic debt to pay for the number of Cokes I sold across this country,” he said.
On Thursday, he came to settle it.