The issue of high levels of pesticides


Recent years, there is a controversial issue that the Coca-Cola Company has been boycotted in India for the reason of high levels of pesticides found in Coca-cola products.

'Environment and consumer activists in India have voiced strong support for the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the group that came out with a report earlier in August that Pepsi and Cola drinks in India contained high levels of pesticides' (Singh, 2003).

'Lawmakers have called for a ban on Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola over allegations earlier this month that both company's locally made drinks contain dangerous levels of pesticides -- up to 40 times higher than that permitted under European Union regulations' (, 2003).

'The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said last August that its investigations revealed the drinks contained harmful residues and posed a health risk' (Singh, 2004).

'An anti-corporate lynch mob has pursued the pair of soda makers since Aug. 9, when a New Delhi environmental group released data purporting to show their soft drinks contain levels of pesticides that greatly exceed proposed Indian safety standards. In response, several Indian states banned sales of Coke and Pepsi' (Bremner & Lakshman, 2006).

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Base on the issue of high pesticides been found, Coca-cola has always maintained the attitude that their products are absolutely safe.

Description of criticism

It's unusual to see the world's cola giants at the same table, but the heads of Coca-Cola and Pepsico in India recently met to defend their products against charges they are unsafe (Haidar, 2003).

Since the problem came out, products from Coca-Cola Company are face a bans on sales, and their marketing are became mass.

'A feisty New Delhi-based environmental group, left-leaning politicians in Southern India, and nonstop press coverage that has raised angst levels over pesticide traces discovered in these companies' carbonated drinks. On Aug. 9, the dispute escalated when India's southwestern state of Kerala, home to about 30 million people, banned the Indian subsidiaries of both companies from making or selling their beverages' (Bremner & Lakshman, 2006).

Apart from the pesticides issue, some of people criticize Coca-cola drinks could be unhealthy obsession. There is an article point that 'Coca-cola's advertising had come to define what it meant to be passionate and sporty, even though their customer base spanned the generations. Its brand managers provided the case studies for business schools, effectively becoming the role models for the next wave of marketers. They personified the movement towards globalization and they were symbolic of capitalism' (Strategic Decision, 2008). Coca-cola provides the drinks that people may not need, and also may not healthy. But with the huge amount of marketing campaign, Coca-cola has established a big brand of drink which attracts people to consume.

Company response

Coca-Cola Company's response was unhurried. At the risk of underplaying its hand, it sent samples of its products to a third party for testing. It also began to issue consumer ads. According to Coca-Cola Asia group communications director Kenth Kaerhoeg, who found himself in the thick of the action less than a year after relocating from Denmark to Hong Kong to take up the new position, the key challenge lay in communicating a highly technical message, coupled with emotional reinforcement (Divesh, 2003).

Faced to this quality issue, the CEO of Coca-cola India, Sanjiv Gupta (2003) said that his company delivers "a top quality product to the consumer" (Haidar, 2003).

For pesticides issue, Coca-Cola has attacked the CSE's findings in advertorials published in Indian newspapers. And Coca-Cola has posted background information on its testing and quality procedures done at labs in Hyderabad, California, and London for its Indian drink lineup on the Web site of its Indian subsidiary. It has even offered to take Indian customers on guided tours of its processing plants as a goodwill measure (Bremner & Lakshman, 2006).

Evaluation of the organizations strategy

In the first place, Coca-cola has a good public relationship strategy that gives their customers rapid and rational response. 'Coca-Cola India haschosen Perfect Relations to strengthen its media outreach - a strategic decision to buffer the expansion of its distribution network' (Divesh, 2003).

Corporate crisis is defined as an unexpected, nonroutine event that creates uncertainty and threatens an organization's priority goals (Dean, 2004). Most company would possibly have some kind of bad things which influence company's reputation, customer satisfaction; hence there should be some one to handle this sensationally. Thus managers or someone who take in charge of this should be able to give the rapid response to corporate crisis, shows the significant attention to the consumers in order to protect the company's reputation (Strategic Direction, 2007). The rapid change about public relation strategic refers to the positive publicity and negative publicity.

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Publicity is generally acknowledged to be more credible and more influential than company-controlled communications. Negative publicity, in particular, has the potential to damage corporate image. This is due to its high credibility as well as the negativity effect, a tendency for negative information to be weighted more than positive information in the evaluation of people, objects, and ideas. Because the media has a preference for reporting bad news, companies are more likely to receive bad press rather than positive press (Dean, 2004).

Back on the issue of high levels of pesticides found in Coca-Cola products, they give a very quick response to India marketing and the other markets. They have a quite convenient communication strategy that support Coca-Cola Company could get back to consumers within few hours, by the way of discusses with top managers and their CEO. In addition, their response are quite consistent each others among the top managers and spokesman. Therefore, the Coca-Cola Company's public relation strategic were not only get to consumers the positive attitude that means they can accept any interview from medias with confidence on their products quality, but also solve the problem with the fact confirmation of European and American pesticides standard in their drinks, and done the re-test for the pesticides content in drinks by the third party, and publish the results to the India media and the other countries.

In the second place, Coca-cola is specialize in the consumer motivation, which would be benefits to the boycott action of consumers. With the fact of this pesticides issue, Coca-Cola has been involved so much to the negative side. But with the adoption of public relation strategies, their consumers' boycott actions and government policy are become more positive to Coca-cola Company in India.

Coca-Cola is specialize in the motivate consumers, thus their continuously strategies were changed consumers attitude step by step.

'Boycotts are an intriguing form of consumer behavior. They are unwelcome to marketers yet consistent with the marketing concept, because firms targeted by a well-supported consumer boycott have apparently failed to sustain a sufficient customer focus. As a result of greater public attention to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the increased vulnerability of brands and corporate reputations, boycotts have become ever more relevant for management decision making' (Klein et al, 2004). Therefore, Coca-Cola put their boycotts as a important target, motivate that by media, marketing campaign and public relation strategies.

Coca-Cola Company seems going well after a period time since the pesticides problem in India; it prepares big expansion in India. 'Coca-Cola has clocked nine quarters of growth and posted 18% increase in unit case volume sales in the July-September 2008 quarter over the previous corresponding quarter-its highest since the pesticide controversy in 2003' (Bhushan, 2009).

Thirdly, Coca-cola might need to improve their corporation social responsibility which involve with their marketing and drinks healthy issue deeply. CSR issue are quite benefit to companies. Social responsibility refers to businesses' "decisions and actions taken for reasons at least partially beyond the firm's direct economic or technical interest" (Carroll, 1991).

A company who have a good CSR strategy could be a good corporate citizen, it would 'earn enouth money that their investor receive a strong return on their investments and that other stakeholders are assured of the continuity of the business and the flow of products, services, jobs, and other benefits provided by the company (Carroll, 1998).

Coca-Cola has taken risks on the positive issues previous years, but after the pesticides incident, there are some other issues come out. Coca-Cola are doing the advertising campaign every day in their markets area and Internet, this cause a problem which is a lot of people do not like to drink Coke drink, but sometime they have no choice for the consumption of the drinks. At this situation of this moment, the company should know the best dimension of marketing, because the over-advertised may cause a lot of negatively encouragement of consumers' consumption. In addition, Coca-Cola has changed its production of products to the direction of healthy drinks. For example, they are not only provide Cokes, but also created more healthy drinks like orange juice, tea drink and so on. They are improving their corporation social responsibility strategy, in order to obtain the good reputation


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To sum up, the Coca-Cola Company have really face a serious problem that might cause the broken of this company. But faced to this problem, the top managers and other staffs of this company are have done a great co-ordinate work which have solve the Indian market and other related market. Their great solution of the problem should be summarized as three main points. First, they have adopt good public relation strategies which allow them to co-ordinate inside the company effectively and efficiently, and response to consumer with rational reason rapidly. Second, they have the specialized techniques on marketing strategies which would motivate their boycotts back as their customer by some reasons, and also encourage the other consumers' consumption behaviour on their products. Third, they have adopt the suitable CSR strategies, in order to satisfy more consumers' needs and obtain more support from different society of different market areas.