WASHINGTON: The soft-drink industry will launch a national outreach effort this fall to publicize its new policy restricting the sale of carbonated drinks in school vending machines.
The American Beverage Association (ABA) on August 16 approved a ban on such sales in elementary schools. The guidelines also restrict sales in middle schools during school hours.
Porter Novelli, which the association hired earlier this year to work on an array of PR issues, will assist in talking about the new policy with educators, parents, legislators, regulators, and other groups interested in school nutrition issues, said Kathleen Dezio, VP of communications with the association.
The association ran full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and other publications on August 18, outlining its new policy.
It will use PR tactics to "do a lot of outreach to communities that are involved. There's enormous interest in this," Dezio said.
Soft-drink makers have been criticized about sales to children in the ongoing national debate about the causes of childhood obesity.
The association decided to institute the new policy so it could move beyond such accusations and talk about broader issues, such as the place soft drinks can occupy in a balanced diet, Dezio said.
While initial media coverage of the new policy included some barbs from opponents of soft drinks, Dezio said the overall coverage was favorable for the industry. "A lot of outlets are giving this industry a lot of credit for taking action," she said.
Opponents called the ban a PR stunt. The Center for Science in the Public Interest said the ban does not go far enough regarding high school soda sales. The center has called for warning labels on carbonated drinks similar to those on cigarettes.