WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2014 – Three of the top US. non-alcoholic beverage makers say they will take steps to cut the calories consumed in beverages by 20 percent per person by 2025.
The pledge by PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Co. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group was announced Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York. The companies, which rank 1, 5, and 23, respectively, on Food Processing’s Top 100 list of U.S. food and beverage businesses, had a combined net profit of nearly $16 billion in 2013.
The move was trumpeted in news releases from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, American Heart Association and the American Beverage Association. Former President Bill Clinton, founder of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, said he was pleased the companies made the decision without being forced by regulations to do so. The Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association founded the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
“I am excited about the potential of this voluntary commitment by the beverage industry. It can be a critical step in our ongoing fight against obesity,” President Clinton said in a release.
The companies said they would take a two-pronged approach to meeting their goal, using national and community initiatives.
Under the national initiative, companies will increase marketing of no- or lower-calorie beverages, water, or smaller portioned beverages. The companies will also work to promote greater caloric awareness on point-of-sale equipment, self-serve fountain dispensers, and other sale sites such as convenience stores and restaurants.
The community initiative focuses on specific areas that have shown little interest, or have had limited access to, healthier beverage options. In these communities, companies will promote their bottled water options as well as improved marketing of healthier options through end-of-aisle displays, improved shelf placement, and checkout displays featuring only reduced-calorie beverages.
Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association, said she was glad to see all three companies work toward “meaningful solutions” to promote better health options.
“This is the single-largest voluntary effort by an industry to help fight obesity and leverages our companies’ greatest strengths in marketing, innovation and distribution,” Neely said. “This initiative will help transform the beverage landscape in America. It takes our efforts to provide consumers with more choices, smaller portions and fewer calories to an ambitious new level.”
While many commended the companies on their efforts, Michael Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said swifter, broader action is needed.
“We applaud President Clinton for his efforts” he said, “but we need much bigger and faster reductions to adequately protect the public’s health.”
Alliance for a Healthier Generation CEO Dr. Howell Wechsler said calories from beverages make up about 6 percent of Americans’ daily caloric intake, so cutting nationwide beverage calories by 20 percent will produce a noticeable result.
“Reducing the number of calories consumed from beverages in the United States is imperative to helping curb obesity,” Wechsler said in a statement. “We commend the beverage industry for making this strong commitment.”
The companies will use a third-party evaluator to track progress and benchmarks. A similar collaboration was seen in 2006, when the same three beverage companies, the American Beverage Association, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation joined efforts to create the Alliance School Beverage Guidelines. These guidelines limit portion sizes and caloric content of beverages available in schools.
“Our work with beverage companies to reduce the number of calories shipped to schools by 90 percent demonstrates the power of creative cooperation,” former President Clinton said.
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