Glacéau Company: Vitamin Water Ethics

Ms. Donaldson, as a concerned employee it has come to my attention that certain business practices that the company is currently engaging in has serious ethical and moral violations and as such I would like to address this issue due to my wavering faith in the ethicality of the business practices that I am aiding. The business practice that I am referring to is the production and sale of vitamin water by Glacéau in which the company states that the water being sold has been “enriched” with vitamins in order to aid people attain a healthy lifestyle. While the increased amount of sales ever since its creation have been a boon to the company I believe that the production, distribution and sale of a product under false pretenses may eventually backfire on the company resulting in numerous claims being filed against it.

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I have conducted my own independent investigation as to the contents of the product and have discovered that far from actually contributing to a person’s health and well being vitamin water and it’s additives could potentially cause health problems in the future, especially if the product is consumed on a regular basis as a replacement for water. On average a single bottle of vitamin water produced by Glacéau contains 32 grams of crystalline fructose, upon further investigation crystalline fructose was discovered as nothing more than a derivative of high fructose corn syrup which numerous scholarly articles and independent journals have linked to the rapid onset of obesity in various populations. 32 grams of crystalline fructose is equivalent to 125 calories which almost as much as drinking a single can of coca cola.

Our company markets the product by emphasizing on the supposed nutritional value that an individual can gain from drinking it yet not only does the high sugar content make it far from being truly nutritional the various vitamins included into the drink may not actually even be absorbed by the body (Roberts 13). Various studies into vitamin absorption have shown that vitamins are actually divided into two distinct groups namely those that are water soluble and those that are fat soluble. Vitamins such as C and B complex can easily be absorbed into the bloodstream since they are water soluble however vitamins such as A,D,E and K are all fat soluble and can enter the bloodstream only if they are dissolved in dietary fat (B vitamin 7).

While vitamin A, E, D and K can be added into a drink that does not mean they can be readily absorbed into the body. In fact studies examining this exact premise have shown that individuals who drank water on an empty stomach which contained vitamin E did not increase the level of vitamin E in their bodies as compared to individuals who took vitamin E supplements while eating (steak, pork, chicken etc). Other studies have also indicated that the average American population that consumes these drinks is already consuming vitamins well over the Recommended Dietary Allowance (Kay 32).

In this case not only is the company marketing drinks with vitamins which might not even be absorbed but the amount of sugars present in each drink is actually detrimental for the future health of a person especially if they replace ordinary water with vitamin drinks. Lastly New York University researchers have shown that the amount of sugars and the resulting intense sweetness from each drink may actually be addictive and as result creates a situation where people are addicted to drinking a beverage which they believe is good for them but in reality is detrimental to their long term health and well being.

How does this affect the company?

The concept of corporate social responsibility should be considered an integral part of most business models due to its ability to sway public opinion either in favor for or against a particular company. In a way CSR is a way in which the company portrays itself as having a positive impact on the environment, its employees and most importantly its consumers (Wagner et al 77). Various instances of a lack in corporate social responsibility has resulted in a distinctly negative consumer reaction such as the melanin scare in China in 2010, the lead based toy from Chinese manufacturers and finally the poisoned pet food incident which was caused once again by Chinese manufacturers (Nicholson 19).

This paper is in no way trying to malign the Chinese manufacturing industry in the least, rather want I am attempting to convey is that a distinct lack of corporate social responsibility does give the company a bad image in the eyes of the general public (Crain 12). After the various incidences that occurred in 2010 due to the negligence of Chinese manufacturers various members of the general market boycotted the products of several companies who had production facilities in China and created a literal wave of anti-outsourcing sentiment in the U.S. Various studies into consumer preference have shown that consumers are more likely to purchase products from companies that they believe are corporately responsible rather than companies which have a reputation for disreputable practices.

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By falsely advertising the attributes of its vitamin drink water not only does Glacéau show a distinct lack of corporate social responsibility but makes itself a target for consumer resentment. Instead of actually being healthy research has shown that the vitamin drinks the company produces are actually unhealthy and are not a good source of additional nutritional content. While I do understand that the parent company, Coca-Cola, has invested billions in the Glacéau vitamin water line the fact remains that eventually this lack of corporate social responsibility may inevitably blow up in our faces creating a media frenzy resulting in a distinct lack of trust for both our companies products and potentially that of our parent company.

I have observed as of late that various lawsuits have been brought against the company in direct relation to supposed “healthy benefits” of our vitamin drink line, while the company has been able to successfully defend itself on all occasions the fact remains that even during the court cases themselves the company has admitted to producing a product that is unhealthy but our defendants claim that the advertising of the products cannot be considered false advertising due to the fact that the claims of the drink to drastically improve health are too ridiculous to actually be believed. While I admire the talent of our legal team I can state with certainty that this is only the beginning and that more and more claims will continue to be filed against the company due to our disreputable practices in advertising the false qualities of one of our products.

Resolving the Ethical Dilemma

The best way to resolve this dilemma is not to immediately halt production but rather to either change the way in which the product is being advertised or by changing the way in which the product is produced. There already hundreds of drinks in the market today with just as much if not more fructose content than what is present in the vitamin drinks being sold by the company, it is all just a matter of appropriate rebranding in order to be able to sell the drink as another thirst quencher or refreshment rather than as a way to make a person healthy. Even within the distinct label of “vitamin water” the drinks themselves actually do taste rather good, better in fact than a majority of other sugary drinks in the market today.

By focusing more on the taste rather than any perceived health benefits of the drinks the company can easily sustain operations for Glacéau except under a more honest advertising strategy. Another option would be to change the formula in which the drinks are made, removing the fructose content would at least help to make the drinks a little bit more convincing as healthy beverage to be consumed. While artificial sweeteners could be introduced that would result in a whole new set of litigation problems.

Alternative means of replacing the sugar could come from using sugar cane juice or Muscavado sugar which various studies have shown to be healthier than ordinary sugar or high fructose corn syrup. On the other hand the company could come clean and put a small disclaimer indicating that the properties advertised may not be what they claim to be. While the latter action will probably never occur the former actions are plausible and can be instituted without significant financial loss to the company.

Measuring the Achievement of Success of the Goal

The best way of determining the success of either the marketing changes or the product formula changes is to observe the rate of sale within a given population set. California presents itself as an ideal test location for the product rebranding or product formula change due to a large health conscious population residing there. In order to see if there are any changes the current rate of sale of vitamin water in California must be used as the benchmark for the predicted market share while the resulting sales that occur after the rebranding or formula change will be categorized as the actual market share.

Should sales come close to, become the equivalent of or even exceed the predicted market share then the rebranding test will be considered a success. Consumer opinion will also have to play a part in this as such various focus groups must be created with consumers giving their opinion in light of the new rebranding or formula change process that Glacéau will be conducting. As was mentioned earlier corporate social responsibility plays an integral role in the relationship between a company and it’s consumers. By gauging the reactions of the focus groups in light of the new changes the company is instituting in order to be a more responsible supplier the potential success of the rebranding/ formula change can be determined.

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Expected Results after Achieving Goal

I expect that should the rebranding or formula change effort be completed Glacéau will either retain or still have a healthy market share of the current beverage market. The fact is the product itself tastes great, along with the product promotions done by various athletes and commercials it is already a well known brand in a lot of households today. By being more honest with the contents of what they make the company prevents future lawsuits from being filed against it due to false advertising. There are actually two possible positive outcomes from this: one where the company gains access to a new market and the other being a strengthening of its current market share in the health food industry.

Generally speaking vitamin water has not been embraced by most of the U.S. consumer population due to many associating the drink with the type of sports drinks that lack flavor and taste. While this is not true public perception still plays a major role in how drinks are perceived and who consumes them. A rebranding effort that focuses on advertising the drink as a refreshing beverage rather than a vitamin sports drink may in fact draw a more diversified client base such as children who would choose to buy the drink due to its flavor rather than its association with health and wellness. The fact is only a small percentage of any consumer population is actually seriously concerned with health and wellness when eating with rest after the flavor of what they eat.

By establishing a rebranding approach that encompasses a more diverse consumer base the company may even gain more customers than when it was advertising the drink as being healthy. On the other hand a distinct change in the way the vitamin drinks are manufactured wherein the excessive amounts of sugar are removed or replaced with a healthy alternative would help to retain its current customer base in the health food section and could even possibly expand it as company sticks products that actually do help in improving health.

Works Cited

“B Vitamin-Laced Drinks Not Likely to Be Beneficial for an Energy Boost.” Environmental Nutrition 32.4 (2009): 7. EBSCO. Web.

Crain, Keith. “Beware of Chinese products.” Automotive News. 2007: 12. EBSCO. Web.

Kay, Lauren. “One a Day?.” Dance Magazine 81.10 (2007): 32. EBSCO. Web.

Nicholson, Kate. “Can an ad campaign lift Brand China?.” Media: Asia’s Media & Marketing Newspaper (2009): 19. EBSCO. Web.

Roberts Jr., William A. “Benefiting Beverages.” Prepared Foods 178.8 (2009): 13-24.

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Vocational and Career Collection. EBSCO. Web.

Wagner, Tillmann, Richard J Lutz, and Barton A Weitz. “Corporate Hypocrisy: Overcoming the Threat of Inconsistent Corporate Social Responsibility Perceptions.” Journal of Marketing 73.6 (2009): 77-91. EBSCO. Web.

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