Big Food Is Making Big Cuts to the Number of Calories It Sells

The food industry is doing its own version of calorie counting.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sep 23, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

Americans are eating significantly fewer calories today than they were in 2007. That number is set to drop even further in the coming decade. So let’s give the American food industry a round of applause, because this reduction didn’t come at the hands of some newfangled diet or a mass move to healthier eating. Rather, the food industry is deliberately selling fewer calories—like trillions fewer.

The biggest, latest bit of news on this front was announced today at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit in New York City. The three largest beverage makers—Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group—made a pledge to reduce the amount of calories Americans consume by one-fifth in the next 11 years. The soda companies plan to achieve the goal through a combination of marketing and distribution efforts. It would amount to an average 20 percent reduction in calories from sugary drinks for individuals by 2025.

With President Clinton lending the announcement an extra bit of gloss, it’s overshadowing a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that found that a group of 16 food and beverage companies collectively sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories in 2012 than in 2007. That amounts to everyone in the U.S. eating 78 fewer calories on a daily basis.

The companies, including giants such as Unilever and General Mills, are part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, an industry group that’s doing its part to address the obesity crisis. The companies said they would take an additional 1.5 trillion calories out of their products by 2015—a goal that has already been surpassed, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. An independent evaluation found that they’re on track to exceed that goal by more than 400 percent.

Public health groups are pleased with the developments. But as the Center for Science in the Public Interest said of today’s announcement from the Clinton Global Initiative, the companies could go further.

“The industry could accelerate progress by dropping its opposition to taxes and warning labels on sugar drinks,” CSPI said in a statement. “Those taxes could further reduce calories in America’s beverage mix even more quickly, and would raise needed revenue for the prevention and treatment of soda-related diseases.”