US Food Manufacturers Cut 6.4 Trillion Calories

September 22, 2014

Major food manufacturers exceed their goal of selling a collective 1 trillion fewer calories by 2012.

Major food manufacturers exceed their goal of selling a collective 1 trillion fewer calories by 2012.

The 16 major packaged food and beverage manufacturers that comprise the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation have cut trillions of calories from their products, according to an independent report published in the October 2014 issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

In 2007, the cluster of companies pledged to collectively sell 1 trillion fewer calories in the United States by 2012, and 1.5 trillion fewer calories by 2015. According to the report conducted in 2013, the companies met and exceeded their goal, selling approximately 6.4 trillion fewer calories in 2012 than they did in 2007.

After adjusting for population changes over the 5-year period, this reduction translates to approximately 78 fewer calories consumed from these brands per person daily.

Calories sold by food manufacturers outside of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation also decreased in the same time period by approximately 11 calories per person each day, and similar reductions were seen for private-label products. The total reduction in the amount of calories from packaged products was 99 calories per person daily.

Although the numbers indicated that the calorie counts of processed foods are improving, whether the overall nutritional quality of the products is improving remains unknown.

"We can't say anything about other nutrients or ingredients," said lead researcher Shu Wen Ng, PhD, in a press release. "Our diets are a function of a lot more than calories.”

In a second study, the authors analyzed the amount of calories purchased by US households with children before and after the 16 corporations made a pledge to reduce calories.

The results showed a significant per capita decline in average daily calories purchased from packaged goods between 2000 and 2012. In addition, households were already purchasing fewer calories from packaged foods and beverages prior to the pledge. However, post-pledge reductions in calories purchased from the 16 brands were less than expected. If the reductions had continued trending downward at the same rate they had been before the pledge, there would have been an additional reduction of 42 calories purchased per person daily.

On the bright side, reductions in calories purchased from other name brands and private labels were greater than expected. “A lack of change in total [consumer packaged goods] calories purchased between 2011 and 2012 calls into question the sustainability of the decline and a need for continued monitoring,” the study authors suggested.