Blocking Coke out-2

JUST AN advisory to Coca Cola. I was informed that your company may have a media relations person and the informant warned me that my previous and probably this column would be cut out and presented as “performance”. This means that this PR person, if indeed true, can be fooling Coke because this column has no connection whatsoever with the alleged PR person or anybody from Coca Cola. Just an advice: don‘t get conned.

I have had several experiences with big companies getting fooled through the offer of some people to get off the critical columns. It was good for them – they lost sums of money. The only influence here is honesty and the truth at least from documents.

The columns are primarily for the Bacolod City Sanggunian and the MassKara Silver Foundation and if Coke got the benefits that is just lucky for them. The articles intend to call attention to the risk to the future of the festival and faulty decision-making.

We had been offered several lock outs before, the “donation” to the festival usually were three times more than the budget. If we had fallen into the temptation, this festival would have been practically owned by one large company and therefore never like this, if it survived at all.

A planter is right when he told me during an October 4 dinner that the lock out is counter-productive. Indeed it helps a rich few, merely massaged the ego and hopefully for the politicians, pogi points before the planters through an exercise of government power.

We cannot quantify the negative impact on Coca Cola but definitely many people who peddled soft drinks during the festival are adversely affected and they will remember those who deprived them of a little cash that comes once year. Many, however, defied the boycott.

I doubt whether the SP debated the resolution. It appears to be an accommodation to vested interest. If indeed the issue is against the users of High Fructose Corn Syrup, why not the other drinks using the same sweetener, like 7-Up, Sprite, Tru-Orange, etc.? This is discrimination and the MassKara festival should not be a venue for this kind of conflict among economic interests. It should be fair and open to all – that is the secret of its success and longevity.

I don’t blame the SMF because it is beholden to the SP that is always expected to exercise prudence and not use the festival for political ends. It was tried before and the festival almost died. But we resisted.

Since the festival’s inception in 1980, Pepsi had been a tightwad in supporting it. The lockout benefited Pepsi greatly although it uses HFCS. It got away simply on a promise to buy more. The planters swallowed that blindly although their statistics show that Pepsi is buying less.

Published reports citing Pepsi as the source said that in 2015 Pepsi purchased 2,741,182 bags of Philippine sugar. The following year (2016) it bought 2,390,644 bags. That is 350,418 bags lower. For next year they will purchase only two million bags or 390,644 less sugar.

Do these figures show an increase in purchase or a decline? How much will it be in 2019 and thereafter? Pepsi explained that the reduction is due to their reformulation to reduce the calorie (sugar?) content. That is immaterial. The fact is that Pepsi is buying less and not more sugar. It did not say it will not use HFCS. Sugar has high calories.

The planters got the wrong end trying to pit one competitor against another. Indeed in the economic war, exploiting competitors’ rivalry to undercut the other can be a weapon in negotiations but it can also backfire. Pepsi was quick to make the promise and the planters grabbed it despite the data to the contrary and used it as leverage against Coke.

Giant businesses normally fight among themselves. That’s good for consumers. However for one to use government authority against another is bad business and questionable governance.

Coke will lose in unearned revenues but save on sponsorship. There is a new Coke, though – the handy 200ml bottle served during a dinner. Its ingredients say it uses sugar. So, the SP can legislate and the SMF can declare a lockout, but they cannot control sale or people’s preference.

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