The Coconut Palm Group is one of the leading coconut beverage manufacturers in China, and claims to be the biggest enterprise to produce natural plant protein soft drinks in the country. Recent advertisements for its coconut milk drink have been described by Weibo users as ‘vulgar’, ‘tone-deaf’, ‘insensitive’ and more.
The company had claimed its product had breast-enlargement properties in its most recent television advertisement. This featured scantily-dressed, well-endowed models running along a beach alongside slogans claiming ‘fairness and fullness’ and ‘attractive, exciting curves’.
Two of the models were featured saying that ‘One cup of [coconut milk] a day will provide attractive curves’ and ‘I have been drinking this since I was small until I am big’.
Posters, banners and product packaging for the coconut milk all featured similar models and slogans.
According to South China Morning Post, Coconut Palm Group has since admitted that its products ‘do not contain any breast-enlarging properties’.
It has also changed its advertisement to a more wholesome one featuring females from various stages of life (primary school, university, working, etc.) in an attempt to play on the ‘drinking since small (young) till big (old/adult)’ slogan.
The company has also attempted an explanation via its Weibo account, claiming that its slogan ‘was not referring to bust-enhancement properties’, but instead meant that ‘it had been consumed by many customers since a young age’ because the company is a ‘coconut milk pioneer established 30 years ago, and is recognised internationally’.
That said, the company is currently under investigation by the Industrial and Commercial Bureau of Longhua district in Haikou city, which is located in Hainan, Southern China. Charges being investigated include false advertising and a public display of vulgarity.
All advertisements have been taken down by the country’s National Radio and Television Administration.
“These advertisements [were created] in pursuit of sensory stimulation and to promote vulgar content, which is in violation of social norms [and] can easily mislead the public, especially minors,” said the government agency.
Other advertisements that were banned along with the coconut milk advertisement were for supplements claiming to treat erectile dysfunction.
History repeats itself
The Coconut Palm Group has been embroiled in similar scandals several times over the past decade.
In 2017, it came under fire under near-identical circumstances, over an advertisement featuring a model in a low-cut shirt next to slogans saying ‘A cup a day will [make you] fair, tender and well-endowed’. There was also an online video featuring scantily clad models reading out similar slogans while holding the product.
A customer service representative for the company had told Beijing News that: “The company has not done any of its own research into the bust-enhancing effects of coconut milk, but such research exists in South East Asia. There will be a detailed introduction on this if a whole box of our products is purchased.”
Going further back, in 2009 the company also received public criticism for it pomegranate juice product advertisement, which posted slogans such as ‘Wives like husbands to drink Coconut Palm Group pomegranate juice’.
The company was penalised CNY1000 (US$150) for the advertisement, and ordered to halt its circulation.