Recently soda giant Coca-Cola issued a cease-and-desist letter to the Israel-based SodaStream company, upset over an exhibit called the 'Cage,' But SodaStream's CEO has told Coke to shove it and is refusing to comply.
Coca-Cola's letter, issued by its company in South Africa, came over an outdoor environmental marketing exhibit that features cans and bottles collected by Sodastream employees from dump sites and thrown in the 'Cage.' The goal of the cage? To demonstrate how many cans and bottles are used by families over a period of 3-5 years.
For obvious reasons, the soda giant has taken umbrage to SodaStream's Cage, one of many around the world, and is attempting to strong arm the beverage carbonation system manufacturer into pulling their exhibits, threatening legal action if it doesn't.
But SodaStream is refusing to play ball and has launched a virtual war. And CEO Daniel Birnbaum fired back at the soda magnate instead, by saying:
Further to recent reports of the cease and desist order issued to us by Coca-Cola in response to our Cage Exhibit in South Africa, we stand firm in our intention not to comply. We have more than 30 such exhibits around the world, which contain bottles, and cans collected from local garbage dumps and they serve to communicate a loud and clear message about waste generated by packaged beverages.
If Coca-Cola claims to still own these bottles, then they should clean up their own garbage. Approximately 1 billion bottles and cans end up in our parks, rivers, oceans and garbage dumps every day worldwide – almost 400 million in America alone. Coke will not silence us with threatening letters.
SodaStream then promptly exhibited the Cage over the weekend in Atlanta's Centennial Park, "to show the citizens of Atlanta" the company said, "what the Coca-Cola executives do not want them, or the world, to see." SodaStream then created 'The Cage Challenge' on Facebook, an online virtual cage it said, that nobody will be able to shut down.
The Coca-Cola company is not having an easy time of it these days. Recently, the state of California told Coke and PepsiCo that they must either change the composition of its caramel flavoring, or display a mandatory “known carcinogen” label on all of its cola products. Both companies subsequently agreed to modify their ingredients.
But soda products have also recently accrued blame for contributing to America's obesity issue, a claim vehemently denied by Coca-Cola's chairman.
SodaStream's CEO said that "people around the world should be able to see the devastating impact of plastic bottles and cans." And the Facebook page he added, will allow "those who are unable to personally visit one of the dozens of actual Cage Exhibits," to be informed about "these ongoing and unnecessary dangers."
Birnbaum said the Facebook project will ensure that "Coca-Cola will not censor the truth about the dangers of their business practices" as "they cannot shut down a virtual Cage."
According to Forbes writer Caleb Melby, Coca-Cola South Africa said it had issued the letter in the interest of "protecting Coca-Cola trademarks against any infringements in the South African market." The soda company also described itself as "a leader in recycling and sustainable packaging."
But Birnbaum disagreed. He adamantly told Forbes that he wasn't complying with Coca-Cola's demands, and that if "Coke is now re-claiming ownership of the billions of bottles and cans that litter the planet with their trademarks," he added, then "they should be sued in the World Court for all of the damage their garbage is causing."