Three major marketers – Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the UK's largest brewer Scottish & Newcastle – have anticipated the inevitable by agreeing voluntarily to display nutrition and health information on their product packaging.

The two beverage behemoths moved in anticipation of a likely mandatory decree by America's Food & Drug Administration. They will include caloric and other nutrition information relating to the entire contents of the package – as opposed to the usual practice of listing the data by 'servings'.

The latter is a red rag to the consumerist bull, which has long argued it is misleading to include the nutritional contents of a single standard 'serving size' on packages of products often entirely consumed in one sitting.

  • Meantime, Scottish & Newcastle (leading brands: Newcastle Brown Ale, Kronenbourg and Foster's) will list the units of alcohol on each can or bottle, adding the prescribed wisdom that drinkers should not to exceed "three to four units a day for men, two to three for women".

    Like Coke and Pepsi, S&N has read the writing on the wall, as the UK government mulls tough measures to curb binge and underage drinking – at the same time limiting the social and health damage wrought by alcohol abuse.

    Adopting a pious expression, S&N described itself as "a responsible company behaving in a responsible way". It did not say whether its responsibility extended to banning so-called 'happy hours' in its chain of eight hundred pubs and clubs where alcohol is touted at half price during the early evening.

    Coors, whose brands include Grolsch and Carling, has launched a similar programme and will place "responsibility straplines" (as it prefers to call health and social information) on its packaging within a few weeks.

    Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online and BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff