companies -- which include General Mills,
Kraft Foods Group,
Nestle, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola
Co. -- had pledged to remove 1 trillion calories in the five-year
period ending in 2012 and 1.5 trillion by 2015, using 2007 as a
baseline year. The initiative is run through an organization called
the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, an industry group that
was formed in 2009.
The findings of the evaluation, which are scheduled
for release on Thursday, mean the companies have exceeded their
2015 pledge by more than 400%, according to RWJF. In 2012, the
companies sold a total of 54 trillion calories worth of
From a PR
standpoint, the results offer a welcome bit of positive
public-health news for the packaged-food giants, whose products
have been targeted by activists for contributing to the nation's
Of course, the dropping calorie count could be partly a
reflection general sales declines, rather than proactive health
responses from the companies. Sanford C. Bernstein in a recent
report noted that volumes have been declining by 0.4% on average
for each year since 2010 for large packaged food companies, "which
lead investors to worry about out the top line growth potential of
companies." And in an ominous sign for big-spending processed food
makers, the report noted that the declines could be structural, not
cyclical, as consumers shift to fresher, healthier products.
"Unfortunately, at present, many packaged food companies are not
well-exposed to fast-growing categories," the report stated.
extremely encouraging to hear that these leading companies appear
to have substantially exceeded their calorie-reduction pledge,"
James Marks, senior VP and director of the health group at Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation, which focuses on health issues, said in a
statement. "They must sustain that reduction, as they've pledged to
do, and other food companies should follow their lead to give
Americans the lower-calorie foods and beverages they
companies accounted for 36% of all packaged-food and beverage
calories sold in the U.S. as of 2007, from Campbell's soup to
Kellogg's Froot Loops. The 6.4 trillion-calorie decline equals a
drop of 78 calories per person in the U.S. per day, according to
the evaluation, which represents the first effort to track the
total number of calories marketed by large companies.
really have cut 70 to 80 calories per person, per day that could
have a meaningful public health effect," said Margo Wootan,
director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the
Public Interest, which is a frequent critic of big food companies.
But she was careful not to give the companies too much credit. "How
much of this is actually due to a proactive changes that the food
industry has made as opposed to just marketplace changes?" she
said. "Are Americans just drinking less soda and switching away
from some junk foods to better alternatives on their
leaders believe they are playing a role through product
reformulations and newer packaging emphasizing portion control. The
Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation cited a range of products,
including Yoplait Greek 100-Calorie yogurt from General Mills;
Ballpark lean beef franks from Hillshire Brands; Keebler
fudge-dipped pretzels that come in 100-calorie "right bites"
portions by Kellogg Co.; and
low and zero-calorie sodas such as Coke Zero and Pepsi Next.