When you hear that any number is in the trillions, it’s like your brain just goes “Whoa, that is probably quite a big deal because a trillion is a super lot of things.” So when you hear that major food companies have trimmed out 6.4 trillion calories from packaged foods sold in 2012, it sounds like a big deal.
To be sure, cutting calories is something many consumers are into. But as NPR’s The Salt explains it, that only works out to about 78 fewer calories purchased per day for every American. Or about one apple or 3.5 Hershey’s Kisses. A half a kiss? Sounds like a peck, to me.
In any case, these figures come from a recent study that compares the calories sold in 2007 to 2012 in regards to 16 major food companies with products in the U.S.
Still, a calorie cut is a calorie cut, and those 78 calories could go toward battling the nation’s obesity problem.
“The range of calories that we need to stop obesity is about 130 to 170, approximately, per person per day,” Kathryn Thomas of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit that funded the study tells The Salt. “If these companies are helping to take out 78 calories per day, that’s an important contribution toward reaching the goal.”
Of course, that’s assuming that every one of us bought something packaged, whether a food or beverage. It doesn’t take into account actual calories consumed by Americans or the food we eat in restaurants. Another question is whether the food industry can take all the credit, or people who proactively change what they’re eating.
“There’s a little bit of a virtuous cycle going on here,” Thomas explains. “Demand for these healthier products is going up. And the industry probably wouldn’t have stepped forward to make this pledge if there wasn’t a market demand for this change.”