"Pepsi Refresh has been an overwhelming success … the project exceeded our internal benchmarks early in the year," she said. "In fact, when Millennials, an important cohort group for Pepsi, know about the Refresh Project their purchase intent goes up."
The public also still generally sees soda companies in a favorable light, which makes their turn to corporate outreach a strong move, whereas with tobacco companies, it looked desperate, according to Friedman.
"It's harder to gain support for the idea that soda in schools poses a threat as opposed to a vending machine that sells cigarettes," she says. "That's largely because public health advocates worked hard to create an atmosphere de-normalizing the [tobacco] industry. With soda, healthy eating advocates are behind the curve."
Recent efforts at banning large sodas in New York City have come under intense public scrutiny, and multiple attempts at soda taxes have been killed by soda manufacturers' lobbying. Cheyne says these healthy living programs from Coke and Pepsi are especially disconcerting given those lobbying efforts.
"You have to look at the fact that at the same time they're using these campaigns to improve their image, they're spending millions of dollars lobbying against public health proposals," he says.
Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Read the U.S. News debate: Should Sugar Be Regulated?
- Read: American Fast Food Contains More Salt
- Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy