Coca-Cola, Taco Bell Speaking at Wellness Event in Boston [Updated]*


In 2014, when McDonald’s sponsored the annual conference of the California Dietetic Association, people balked—and for good reason. Here is this huge event with the country’s top nutritionists, and they’re being forced to eat food that they normally wouldn’t touch. Sizzler, Boston Market, Hershey’s, and California Pizza Kitchen were also there peddling their goods.

McDonald’s was there to try to show off their “healthier” options, such as parfaits and salads. And they are still at it.

This month, I received a pitch from a PR agency representing McDonald’s for a “behind-the-scenes Open Door Tour & a session with renowned science teacher John Cisna” who will showcase “the real & fresh ingredients we use every day” and speak about how he ate “nothing but McDonald’s for every meal for 6 months, and [lost] 60 pounds.”

Looks like McDonald’s is trying to take a bite out of Jared the Subway guy’s pie.

But McDonald’s is not alone in their who-knows-how-much-these-publicity-campaigns-cost endeavor. On April Fool’s Day, the most dreaded day of the year for digital journalists, I received a pitch that made me laugh. I really thought it was a joke and replied to the publicist asking if it was. Sadly, it is for real.

The pitch begins, “Virgin Pulse [based in Framingham] is hosting its annual wellness event in Boston later this month” and topics will include the “sitting epidemic” and “blue screen sleep disruptions.” Then, it gets weird: “Big names like Coca Cola, Taco Bell [and others] are coming together at this year’s Thrive Summit to talk about how to eliminate tired, one-dimensional ‘wellness’ initiatives and better engage with employees to help them to lead healthier, happier, more productive lives at work and at home.”

The $600 a ticket Thrive Summit is described on its website as: “We’re bringing together industry experts, HR leaders, customers and fantastic keynote speakers for 3 days of education, networking, and inspiration. Join us to discover how to engage your employees, create a thriving environment, and build a business that performs at its peak.”

What? These companies are experts in wellness? The event itself looks like it could be interesting. Even Robin Roberts is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. But who wants to attend something where you know you are going to get a lecture from Coca-Cola about “wellness.”

*Editor’s Note: This piece originally called Coca-Cola and Taco Bell “sponsors” of the event. Virgin Pulse has reached out to clarify that the two companies will be “speaking and participating in the event” but not sponsoring.