Sixteen of the world’s largest food and beverage companies have exceeded their five-year goal to remove 1.5 trillion calories from products sold in the US by 400 per cent, according to findings from an independent evaluation. The goal was set in 2010 and is compared against a 2007 baseline.

The evaluation was conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a philanthropic and research organisation focused on improving the nation’s health.

The research found that the 16 companies, which include FIA members Kellogg’s, Mondelēz and Unilever, have sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories in 2012 than they did in 2007. According to the research, this 6.4 trillion calorie reduction translates into a decline of 78 calories consumed per person in the US per day.

These 16 companies are part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF). Launched in October 2009, the HWCF was set up with the goal of reducing obesity in the US by 2015.

The calorie-reduction pledge taken up by these companies was announced in May 2010 as part of an agreement between the HWCF and the Partnership for a Healthier America, a non-profit group chaired by US First Lady Michelle Obama to combat obesity. When the pledge was announced in 2010, the companies noted that they would substitute their products with lower-calorie options, change existing products to cut their calories, and reduce portion sizes to introduce more lower-calorie packs.

In a press statement, James S. Marks, MD, senior vice president and director of the Health Group at RWJF applauded efforts made by the food and beverage companies in reducing calories to meet their goals.

“It’s extremely encouraging to hear that these leading companies appear to have substantially exceeded their calorie-reduction pledge. 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 want,” Mr Marks said.

In total, the 16 companies produced 36 percent of the calories from all packaged foods and beverages items such as cereals, snacks, canned soups, and bottled beverages, sold in the US in 2007.

The research also found that the biggest reduction in calories sold was to households with young children, and that beverage companies are beginning to “[shift] advertising to lower-calorie beverages”.

FIA Policy Director, Melanie Vilarasau Slade, said the significant reduction in calories made by the food and beverage companies highlights the industry’s strong commitment to promoting balanced diets and healthier lifestyles.

“The calorie reduction achieved by the food and beverage companies in the US is a great example of the industry’s commitment to introduce tasty food options to encourage consumers to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“This achievement is just one part of the industry’s ongoing commitment to reformulate products, enhance nutrition labelling and promote physical activity as part of a global, whole-of-society effort to reduce the risk factors related to non-communicable diseases”.

The 16 companies committed to the HWCF calorie-reduction pledge include Bumble Bee Foods, LLC; Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods; General Mills; Hillshire Brands; Kellogg Company; Kraft Foods Group/Mondelez; Mars, Incorporated; McCormick & Company; Nestlé USA; PepsiCo; Post Foods; The Coca-Cola Company; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; and Unilever.

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