The nation's top food and beverage companies reminded the government today that they are part of the solution—and not the cause—of American's obesity problem. Fulfilling a commitment made three years ago, 16 companies including brand owners such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle USA, Kellogg, General Mills, and Kraft Foods announced that they had reached their goal of taking 1.5 trillion calories out of the marketplace, three years ahead of schedule.
Under attack as one of the leading causes of obesity, the companies, which together form the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, signed on to First Lady Michelle Obama's Partnership for a Healthier America and agreed during a 2010 White House event to make changes in product formulas and sizes. The original goal was to fulfill the commitment by 2015.
Since then, the companies have offered more portion-controlled products, changed recipes to meet calorie goals, and provided low- and zero-calorie options. Many of the companies, such as Coca-Cola, have also begun to advertise the new options and emphasize a healthier lifestyle in marketing messages.
Not only was the commitment good political sense, it was also good business sense. Lower-calorie sales among the 16 companies increased by $1.25 billion according to a study conducted for the HWCF by The Hudson Institute. Sales of higher-calorie products increased by only $300 million.
Members of the HWCF touted their progress in a press conference this morning in Washington, alongside former U.S. secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman; Tracy Orleans, a senior scientist at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and representatives from the White House.
The group also took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post.
"Our industry has a important role to play in helping people lead healthy lives and our actions are having a positive impact," said Indra Nooyi, HWCF chair and CEO of PepsiCo. "We see continued opportunities to give consumers the choices they're looking for and to work collaboratively with the public and non-profit sectors on initiatives that enable continued progress.
The HWCF's progress will be evaluated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in a report expected this fall.