Leading producers of sugar-sweetened drinks have entered a “landmark” agreement to reduce calories Americans consume in these beverages by 20 percent by 2025, President Bill Clinton, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and beverage manufacturers announced Tuesday.
“I am excited about the potential of this voluntary commitment by the beverage industry,” Clinton said. “It can be a critical step in our ongoing fight against obesity. We look forward to continuing to work together to achieve the goals outlined in this commitment.”
Joining Clinton at the New York announcement were Alliance CEO Dr. Howell Wechsler and representatives from The Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association.
“Reducing the number of calories consumed from beverages in the United States is imperative to helping curb obesity. We commend the beverage industry for making this strong commitment,” said Wechsler, who leads the Alliance that was founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation to fight childhood obesity.
The announcement comes amid ongoing nationwide concern about the health and economic costs of sugar-sweetened beverages. States and cities in recent years have considered measures discouraging consumption, including warning labels, taxes and smaller portions. And this fall, as a result of new federal lunch rules, sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks will no longer be sold in schools.
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown praised the announcement as one of several approaches needed to curb the dangers of sugar-sweetened beverages. These drinks are a leading source of America’s epidemic of obesity, a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other health problems.
“It is excellent news that beverage companies are working on this voluntarily,” Brown said. “Their help, along with our continued efforts to discourage excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks through public policy and education, are part of the sweeping approach to address this overwhelming problem. This is an important step toward creating a culture of health, where it’s easier for everyone to make the healthier choice.”
The agreement announced Tuesday calls for the beverage companies to use their national marketing heft to inform consumers about healthier options, including smaller portions, drinking water and lower-calorie beverages. Each company will also provide calorie counts and promote calorie awareness at locations nationwide, including stores, restaurants and vending machines.
The beverage companies also will focus on communities where there has been less interest in and/or access to lower-calorie drinks. The companies will promote bottled water take other steps, including a greater emphasis on lower-calorie products and smaller portions as well as and coupons and other incentives to buy these drinks.
The beverage companies will retain an independent, third-party evaluator, in conjunction with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, to track the industry’s progress.
“We’re exceptionally pleased by aspects of the agreement that focus on communities that need the most help and the fact that the beverage companies will be held accountable,” Brown said.
Susan K. Neely, President and CEO of the American Beverage Association that represents drink manufacturers, said her organization is proud of this agreement and optimistic about the outcome.
“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,” she 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. 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.”
The Alliance has worked with the beverage industry before, including a 2006 agreement with The Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association to limit portion sizes and reduce beverage calories available to students during the school day.
The result was a 90 percent reduction in calories from beverages shipped to schools between the 2004-2010 school years, according to an independent analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012 showed
“Our work with beverage companies to reduce the number of calories shipped to schools by 90 percent demonstrates the power of creative cooperation,” Clinton said.