Food Companies' Calorie-Reduction Pledges to Improve U.S. Diet

In May 2010, 16 major food and beverage companies pledged to collectively remove 1.5 trillion calories a year from the marketplace by the end of 2015, as compared with the number of calories sold in 2007. The companies set an interim goal of removing 1 trillion calories by 2012. 

This pledge, made by members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), is the largest self-regulatory industry initiative of its type in the United States. This is the first time major food and beverage companies have committed to an external, independent evaluation of a voluntary pledge.

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, researchers at the University of North Carolina Food Research Program have developed the metrics that will be used to track progress toward the calorie-reduction goal and assess the overall impact on children. As detailed in this study, the methods developed by the researchers make it possible—for the first time—to track the flow of food and beverage products sold, purchased, and consumed by Americans.

The study also provides baseline benchmarks for the evaluation, which show that the 16 HWCF companies account for about 25 percent of calories consumed in the United States in 2007. The study also finds that the pledge to remove 1.5 trillion calories by 2015 is about the same as eliminating 14 calories per day for the average adult or child.   

Additional analyses to evaluate the impact of the HWCF pledge are expected in late 2013.