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Coke discloses how it spent tens of millions on health research, partnerships

September 22, 2015

Coca-Cola Post Strong EarningsCoca-Cola Post Strong Earnings
The compromise soda tax would be 1.5 cents-per-gallon.Photograph by Scott Olson — Getty Images

Coca-Cola (KO) disclosed on Tuesday it has spent $118.6 million on health research and health and fitness partnerships in the United States since 2010, a move that is part of its efforts to be more transparent in the wake of accusations it has tried to downplay the role of soda in the obesity epidemic.

Last month, the world’s biggest beverage maker pledged to be more transparent about its health-related funding initiatives after the New York Times reported on Coke’s funding of the Global Energy Balance Network, a group that argues weight-conscious Americans should be paying more attention to exercise and less attention to their diet.

“Today, in the United States, we take the critical first step to becoming a more effective partner against obesity by sharing with each of you how we partner with organizations and how we support scientific research on health-related issues,” said Sandy Douglas, President, Coca-Cola North America on Coke’s web site. “It is a journey that will make us a better company and a better local community partner.”

Coke CEO Muhtar Kent soon after said in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that the company would begin disclosing all of its financial contributions to health and academic groups, recognizing that questions over Coke’s funding had resulted in “confusion and mistrust.” Coke’s website will let people look up its funding of U.S. health and fitness research and partnerships since January 2010.

Of the $118.6 million total disclosed by Coke on Tuesday, $21.8 million went to third-party scientific research on health-related issues, and $96.8 million to health and wellness partnerships.