The iconic Christmas Coca Cola truck received a cold reception at the end of its UK tour after campaigners moaned they were handing out free fizzy drinks.
Council chiefs tried to stop the illuminated red truck stopping in Croydon, south London, this weekend.
They backed a campaign by Sugar Smart UK to ban the fizzy drinks giant from promoting its sugary drinks to children during the festive season.
Cllr Rachel Flowers, the council’s director of public health, also wrote to Coca Cola calling for an end to the 150ml cans being handed out.
The open letter by Sugar Smart UK criticised Coca Cola’s “continued promotion of sugary drinks to children, young people and the general population during the holiday season”.
Addressed to Jon Woods, general manager of Coca Cola Great Britain & Ireland, it stated: “One 150ml can of classic Coke contains over 16 grams of sugar, nearly the entire maximum daily limit for a six-year-old.
“It’s with these less than cheerful figures in mind that we ask you to stop promoting sugary drinks during the Coca Cola Christmas truck tour to the general public this year – in particular to children.”
More than 80 people signed the letter including directors of public health, councillors, public health advocacy organisations and local healthy eating campaign coordinators.
Cllr Flowers said: “Croydon is a ‘sugar smart’ borough, supporting residents to be aware of the adverse health risks of consuming too much sugar including the consumption of high sugar fizzy drinks.
“Within Croydon we have developed a local campaign and as Coca Cola feels the need to come and visit Croydon for two days, I would like to suggest that we work in parallel at this event to make people aware on the day of simple sugar swaps they can do to reduce sugar in their daily diets.
“Sugar is the main source of excess calories in our diets and plays a key role in tooth decay, which is why reducing sugar consumption is one of my priorities.
“Please can I request that Coca Cola goes one step further and completely removes the full sugar original taste coke giveaways from any future promotions in the London Borough of Croydon, and ideally from your holiday promotions anywhere else in the UK.”
Coca Cola, however, went ahead with its annual tradition which saw thousands of people attend.
In response to the Sugar Smart UK open letter, Coca Cola said it would continue to give out free cans of Coca-Cola original taste.
Coca Cola general manager Mr Woods said: “This annual event is something that our consumers love and enjoy, and I feel we run it in a responsible way.
“I believe the actions we have taken as a business to remove sugar from our drinks and focus our marketing on the no sugar variants of Coca Cola show we are committed to acting responsibly and playing our part in addressing some of the challenges you raise.
“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.”
By Ben Gelblum and Berny Torre
Coca Cola Christmas truck photo (c) Jeff Buck (CC BY-SA 2.0)