One year into a 10-year campaign to reduce beverage calories consumed per American nationally by 20 percent, Coca-Cola and its competitors are taking foundational steps to help change consumer behavior and drive interest in lower and no sugar beverages, and smaller packages according to an independent, first-year progress report released today.

The report, published by Keybridge LLC, describes beverage innovations, marketing initiatives and distribution strategies being implemented nationally by The Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025. The reports estimates that beverage calories per person decreased by 0.2 percent from 2014 to 2015. Two trends combined to bring about this result. There was a 2.3 percent decrease in calories per 8-ounce serving, but that decrease was mostly offset by a 2.2 percent increase in total beverage consumption. Declines in the consumption of low- and no-calorie soft drinks also had an impact.

“Driving change of this magnitude takes time,” said Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “We are pleased to see that the beverage industry has begun to implement and learn from strategies that can reach the goal of a 20 percent reduction in Americans’ beverage calories.”

In 2015, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the American Beverage Association and the aforementioned companies launched the Balance Calories Initiative (BCI) to increase interest in and access to low-calorie and smaller-portion beverages. It’s the single-largest voluntary effort by any industry to fight obesity and related health issues.

BCI programs are now underway in five pilot markets with above-average obesity rates – New York, Los Angeles, Little Rock, Ark., Montgomery, Ala, and the Mississippi Delta. Each participating company, including Coca-Cola, is implementing strategies to engage consumers – from increased availability of no- and low-calorie beverage options and smaller portion sizes such as mini-cans, to product reformulation, to calorie awareness messages on coolers, vending machines and fountain equipment. Companies also are launching sampling programs, local media programs, couponing and other incentives; in-store displays prominently highlighting smaller packs, lower-calorie and lower-sugar beverages; and community outreach. These initial efforts will allow the beverage companies to test solutions and develop best practices to roll out in other parts of the country. 

“America’s beverage companies are committed to cracking the code on how each company can heighten consumer interest in lower calories, small portion sizes and less sugar,” said Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association. “The innovative strategies we are ramping up in the marketplace will be what gets us to our goal.”

According to the Keybridge report, introductions of no-, low- and mid-calorie beverage innovations across the industry outpaced introductions of full-calorie beverages in 2015. Beverage companies introduced 26 low- and no-calorie beverages and 17 mid-calorie beverages, representing more than 60 percent of all new brands and flavors introduced. Five beverages also had their average calories per ounce reduced from 106 calories to 68 calories per 8-ounce serving, a 36 percent calorie decrease. And companies are working with retailers to change in-store shelf layouts to attract consumer attention toward reduced-calorie options and smaller package sizes.

'We are early in our journey, but the Balance Calories Initiative is an important opportunity for beverage companies to work together to help people reduce the calories and the sugar they consume from our beverages and offer even more choices. We look forward to growing and expanding our efforts to create and adapt our business strategies to offer people more choices, smaller packages and less sugar.'

The report also emphasizes the challenges experienced during this first year including sharp declines in consumption of low and no-calorie soft drinks. Meeting the 2025 goal will require beverage companies to not only reverse the downward trend in beverages with low- and no-calorie sweeteners but also accelerate growth in these beverage options, the report added.

Coca-Cola and its industry partners have a long track record of voluntarily taking steps to benefit communities, especially on the complex issue of obesity, including partnering with First Lady Michelle Obama on her Let’s Move campaign, introducing the Clear on Calories Initiative that puts prominent calorie labels on the front of every bottle and can from The Coca-Cola Company. The company's School Beverage Guidelines removed 90 percent of the beverage calories shipped to schools.

"We are early in our journey, but the Balance Calories Initiative is an important opportunity for beverage companies to work together to help people reduce the calories and the sugar they consume from our beverages and offer even more choices.” said Caren Pasquale Seckler, vice president, social commitment, Coca-Cola North America. “We look forward to growing and expanding our efforts to create and adapt our business strategies to offer people more choices, smaller packages and less sugar."