Business Strategies

Big Three Soda Makers Pledge 20 Percent Calorie Reduction

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Sep 24, 2014

America's three largest soda makers pledged on Sept. 23 to reduce calories contributed by their beverages by 20 percent over the next 10 years through a combination of product shuffling, repackaging and smaller portion sizes.

Officials from Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc., joined The American Beverage Assn. (ABA) and Alliance for a Healthier Generation in announcing the plan at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York. The alliance was founded by the American Heart Assn. and the Clinton Foundation, the latter started by former President Bill Clinton.

“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,” said President Clinton. “Our work with beverage companies to reduce the number of calories shipped to schools by 90 percent demonstrates the power of creative cooperation. We look forward to continuing to work together to achieve the goals outlined in this commitment.

Soda makers plan to reach their goal by 2025 via a two-pronged approach, according to an ABA news release:

  • National Initiative: The companies will leverage their marketing, innovation and distribution strength to increase and sustain consumer interest in and access to beverage options to help consumers reduce calories consumed. Such beverage options include smaller portion sizes, water and other no- or lower-calorie beverages. Through these efforts, water and other lower-calorie beverages are expected to grow significantly. The companies will engage in consumer education and outreach efforts to increase consumer awareness of and interest in the wide array of no- and lower-calorie beverages and smaller portion sizes available. Each beverage company will provide calorie counts, and promote calorie awareness on all beverage company-controlled point-of-sale equipment nationwide, including more than 3 million vending machines, self-serve fountain dispensers, and retail coolers in convenience stores, restaurants and other locations.
  • Community Initiative: Each company commits to focus efforts in communities where there has been less interest in and/or access to options that help consumers reduce their calories with a goal of achieving a 20 percent per person reduction of calories consumed from beverages in those communities within 10 years. Beverage companies will promote consumption of their bottled water products. Each beverage company may undertake additional activities including: introducing and expanding new lower-calorie products and smaller-portion packages; product placement such as end aisle and checkout displays featuring only reduced-calorie beverages; merchandising efforts such as repositioning reduced-calorie beverages on shelves; providing coupons and other incentives promoting no/lower-calorie options; and taste tests/sampling programs in and out of store.

The beverage companies will retain an independent, third-party evaluator, in conjunction with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, to track progress and interim benchmarks toward their commitments. The beverage industry and the alliance will work jointly to define the reporting schedule for all aspects of this agreement.

On stage were President Clinton; Susan Neely, president/CEO of ABA; Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation; Wendy Clark, president of sparkling brands & strategic marketing at Coca-Cola North America; Rodger Collins, president of packaged beverages at Dr Pepper Snapple; and Albert Carey, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages.

“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,” said Neely. “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. We’re proud to continue our successful partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and President Clinton and further our commitment to bring meaningful solutions to families and communities nationwide.”

In May 2006, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation joined with representatives of the same three soda companies and the ABA to establish the Alliance School Beverage Guidelines, which limit portion sizes and reduce the number of beverage calories available to students during the school day. As a result of the guidelines, the industry committed to changing the beverage mix in schools across America by removing full-calorie soft drinks and providing for lower-calorie, nutritious beverage options in age-appropriate portions.

An independent analysis of the Alliance School Beverage Guidelines published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012 showed there had been a 90 percent reduction in calories from beverages shipped to schools between the 2004-2010 school years.