The Accidental Diet

CPG brands exceed calorie-cutting goal by 400%, a year ahead of schedule

PRINCETON, N.J. -- It’s likely you didn’t notice, but since 2007 you've been on a diet, as many of the packaged snacks stocking your shelves are packing fewer calories—approximately 6.4 trillon fewer.

According to an independent evaluation funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J., 16 of the nation’s leading food and beverage companies sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories in the United States in 2012 than they did in 2007.

The companies banded together with the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation to remove 1 trillion calories from the marketplace by 2012, and 1.5 trillion by 2015. They’ve already exceeded that 2015 pledge by 400%.

To verify the pledge’s true impact, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took data on food and beverage products sold by the participating companies with nutritional information for those products. They then took those products and tracked their sales over a given time period.

The 16 companies produced 36% of the calories of all packaged food and beverages, such as cereals, snacks, canned soups, bottled beverages, etc., sold in the United States in 2007. Many developed new lower-calorie options, changed the product formulas so they had fewer calories, or adjusted portion sizes to introduce lower-calorie packages.

Together, these 16 companies sold 60.4 trillion calories in 2007, and sold 54 trillion in 2012. The difference translates to 78 fewer calories per person, per day.

“The companies whose sales we analyzed have a big influence over the foods and beverages almost every American eats and drinks every day,” said Barry Popkin, the W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor in the School of Public Health at UNC, who is leading the evaluation team. “The evaluation system we’ve created will enable us to determine how changes to what’s sold influences what people consume.”

The participating companies include: Bumble Bee Foods LLC, Campbell Soup Co., ConAgra Foods, General Mills Inc., Hillshire Brands, Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Group/Mondelez, Mars Inc., McCormick & Co., Inc., Nestle USA, PepsiCo Inc., Post Foods, The Coca-Cola Co., The Hershey Co., The J.M. Smucker Co., and Unilever.