The three largest soda companies each vowed to put measures in place that would help reduce the number of sugary drink calories consumed in the United States by one-fifth during the next decade, the New York Times reports.
The companies plan to use their marketing and distribution resources to reduce each American’s consumption of sugary drinks by at least 20% by 2025. The Times reports that soft drinks currently account for about 6% of the average consumer’s daily calories.
To achieve the new goal the soda companies will expand the presence of low- and no-calorie drinks and sell products in smaller portions.
Additionally, they will design promotions to educate and encourage consumers to reduce the calories they are drinking. One such tactic includes the use of signs at vending machines and soda fountains encouraging consumers to check the calories on the back of the drinks they are considering purchasing.
The new programs, which will begin in Little Rock, AR, and Los Angeles, will cover company-owned vending machines, coolers in convenience stores and fountain drink dispensers in movie theaters and restaurants.
A trip down the soda aisle at the grocery store will also look different to consumers, with significant changes to to end-of-aisle promotions and marketing materials expected.
“We’ll use the most critical levers we have at our disposal, and the focus really will be on transforming the beverage landscape in the U.S. over the next 10 years,” Susan Neely, chief executive of the American Beverage Association, the industry trade group, tells the Times.
Tuesday’s pledge announcement was made at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative where officials with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation detailed how the new commitment would be assessed.
Similar to the soda companies’ previous campaigns to reduce the number of sugary drinks sold on school campuses, the new strategy will be evaluated at interim levels by the amount of product shipped.
While the new initiative may be a step in the right direction, consumer health advocates say it doesn’t do enough to adequately protect the public’s health.
Officials with The Center for Science in the Public Interest say in a statement that the industry could accelerate the progress of reducing sugary drink calories by dropping its opposition to taxes and warning labels on drinks.
“Those taxes could further reduce calories in America’s beverage mix even more quickly, and would raise needed revenue for the prevention and treatment of soda-related diseases,” the statement reads.
In recent years, there has been an increased push by health groups such as CSPI, government officials and regulatory entities to reduce the amount of sugary calories consumed in soft drinks.
Back in 2013, CSPI called on the Food & Drug Administration to limit the amount of sugar in soft drinks and other sweetened beverages.
“As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption,” CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said at the time. “Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease.”
Other regulatory proposals included former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to limit the size of soda containers. That plan was met with fierce disapproval and required many court appeals before essentially being quashed this summer.
Across the country in California a bill that would require warning labels on sugary drinks stalled. But two cities – Berkley and San Francisco – recently announced initiatives to become the first cities in the U.S. to pass per-ounce taxes on the drinks.