Coca-Cola scales back Christmas truck tour after backlash

Activists call for only sugar-free drinks

By TARA JOHN, CNN
Coca-Cola via CNN

Coca-Cola has slimmed down its Christmas truck tour through Britain amid opposition from health campaigners.

(CNN) - Coca-Cola has slimmed down its Christmas truck tour through Britain amid opposition from health campaigners.

The annual tour, in which cans of Coke are handed out in dozens of towns and cities, started in 1995.

The events would be hosted by local councils and "other landowners as part of their Christmas festivities," according to a statement from food and health charity Sustain.

This year's tour kicked off in Glasgow on November 9 and, according to Sustain, will visit 24 municipalities -- down from 38 in 2017.

This follows local opposition coordinated by Sustain's Sugar Smart campaign, including protests in a handful of cities against the festive marketing campaign.

Sustain said in a statement that cities like Carlisle and Liverpool have chosen not to invite the truck back onto public land this year and noted that Public Health England issued guidance to local councils warning against "the impact seasonal marketing promotions can have on diet-related diseases."

Nearly 100 organizations and campaigners have signed a letter calling on the soft-drink giant to hand out only sugar-free drinks.

Sustain added that this year, the truck is visiting areas that have worse than average health problems relating to diet: "14 of the 19 stops in England have above average prevalence of excess weight amongst 10-11 years olds."

Activists are also pushing large supermarket chains like Asda and Tesco to stop hosting the truck.

Coca-Cola defended its use of Christmas trucks, saying that 90% of the drinks sampled this year will have zero sugar.

"For a few weeks per year thousands of consumers love and enjoy our Christmas truck tour and as long as consumers want it we will continue to run it," Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland, wrote in a statement.

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