Soft drink health concerns not yet trickled down into social media users’ mentions of brands

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

Unlike mainstream media, social media users are more likely to post about soft drink packaging and celebrity marketing than health concerns. ©GettyImages
Unlike mainstream media, social media users are more likely to post about soft drink packaging and celebrity marketing than health concerns. ©GettyImages

Related tags Social media Singapore Coca-cola

A new report shows that mainstream media coverage of health concerns regarding soft drinks is increasing, but this has not filtered down to social media where users are more likely to be concerned about packaging and celebrity marketing.

In Asia, there has been a growing push from both governments and health advocacy groups to address the regional scourge of obesity and diabetes, which has been significantly covered in various traditional media outlets.

The report “An Insight into Asia’s Beverage Industry on Social Media”​ by Digimind stated that mainstream news titles in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore published a variety of stories about the more than 30 drinks brands studied.

Traditional news coverage of soft drinks and health

Health and ingredient related concerns received high coverage in Malaysia (44%) and Singapore (46.7%), as well as in the Philippines (28.6%).

Following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally call for Singaporeans to reduce their daily intake of sugar, The Straits Times​ and Yahoo News​ published various articles on the matter, such as efforts by schools to restrict students’ consumption of sweetened beverages, major drink brands planning to reformulate with less sugar in their products, and healthier ways to snack — while referencing the call for sugar reduction and the case against diabetes.

The report also noted that in Malaysia, efforts by F&N and Coca-Cola to produce healthier products were published in the media.

A different story on social media

The report on Asia’s beverage industry also analysed social media coverage of these soft drink brands, and found that there is a great discrepancy between the two.

A total of 33 carbonated and non-carbonated flavoured drink brands were monitored across social media. The authors also studied Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The social media pages surveyed showed a lot of discussion about the products’ taste and packaging appearance, rather than concerns about health, ingredients or environmental friendliness.

One example is that of K-pop fans tweeting images of Korean stars gracing Coca-Cola cans and expressing hope that their own favourites would be featured.

In the Philippines, music star-driven campaigns drove social media posts on Coca-Cola to 40% of the total volume of posts in the five East Asian countries.

All the countries also showed a strong response to the category of taste, while Indonesia and Malaysia had significant response to “Sensations”.

“Their personal experience from consuming the drink, coupled with the ‘shareability’ of these experiences on image-centric social media platforms like Instagram, outweighed the implications on individual health and the environment,”​ said the report.

Among the countries surveyed, only respondents in Singapore showed significant concern about health. The report suggested that this could be linked to the awareness campaigns about diabetes and healthy eating by the government and mainstream news media.

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