Independent evaluator Keybridge LLC released its annual report on progress toward a nationwide goal, set by the beverage industry and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, to reduce the calories and sugar Americans get from beverages. The report noted that 2019 saw the largest single-year reduction in calorie consumption and the third consecutive year of declines since the launch of the initiative.
In 2014, the Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Association (ABA), The Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Keurig Dr Pepper (formerly Dr Pepper Snapple Group) and Healthier Generation announced the Beverage Calories Initiative (BCI), a commitment to reduce per-capita consumption of beverage calories by 20 percent nationally by 2025.
According to the report, consumption of calories and sugar from beverages fell by 2.4 percent in 2019, even as sales volumes grew. Most of the progress toward the calorie goal came from reduced consumption of full-calorie sodas. Calories from juices and sports drinks also declined in 2019. Per person volumes of no- and low-calorie sodas held steady, representing a change from previous years when declining volumes of no- and low-calorie soft drinks had been a headwind to calorie reduction progress. Meanwhile, sales of waters grew in 2019.
Since the start of BCI, beverage calories for each person have decreased 5.6 percent from 203 calories for each person a day in 2014 to 191.8 in 2019. Annual reductions have accelerated over each of the last three years.
“We are pleased to see continued progress toward the 2025 beverage calorie reduction target,” said Kathy Higgins, chief executive officer at Healthier Generation, in a statement. “Though we have much to learn in the coming year about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on beverage consumption patterns, Healthier Generation remains committed to its long-term work of ensuring that families across the nation have more access to beverages with little or no sugar.”
This progress, which predates the COVID epidemic, comes as the beverage industry has been driving product innovations and marketing toward lower-calorie options. In 2018, more than two-thirds of all new beverage brands introduced were either no-, low- or mid-calorie options. In 2019, more than 55 percent of beverages purchased were zero-calorie.
“America’s beverage companies are introducing more choices with less sugar and smaller portion sizes than ever before — you can see these changes in the beverage aisle and it’s encouraging consumers to reduce sugar in their diets,” said Katherine Lugar, president and chief executive officer of the ABA. “These results show the power of public-private partnerships working together to help support family efforts to balance their lives.”
For 15 years, Healthier Generation has convened and facilitated industry-wide and community-based solutions in support of whole child health. In 2006, Healthier Generation, ABA, and America’s leading beverage companies entered into an agreement that reduced beverage calories shipped to the nation’s K-12 schools by more than 90 percent. The Beverage Calories Initiative builds upon this effort to decrease consumption of calories from beverages at both a national and local level.
Later this year, Healthier Generation and ABA will release a complementary report on the BCI Communities Initiative, which evaluates progress toward the 20 percent beverage calorie reduction goal in five select communities across the country.
The 2019 national report is available on the Healthier Generation website at www.healthiergeneration.org/bci and the American Beverage Association website at www.ameribev.org.