Here in Addis Ababa, last weekend saw the Coca-Cola Road Race, an annual 7km race. The strapline for the event was “active healthy living”. Um, really? Seriously?
If you talk to food experts like my friend Professor Tim Lang at City University in London, they’ll tell you that highly sugared soft drinks are right up there as prime villains of the current obesity epidemic. Here’s a quote from a commentary piece that Tim co-authored with his colleague Geoff Rayner (emphasis mine):
Dietary patterns have always been changing. But now, part of the public health crisis is due to the pace and scale of that change. Two examples are the vast increase in production and thus consumption of sugared soft drinks and of sugary energy-dense ultra-processed products, and the distortion of customer and consumer demand that is driven by commercial marketing power.
Right now, Ethiopia has the lowest rate of obesity in the world. As a result, you never see Diet Coke for sale here – there just isn’t the demand.
But hey - give it a few years.