The Alliance for a Healthier Generation and America’s beverage companies announced today that work will begin in Montgomery and Lowndes Counties on the Balance Calories Community Initiative, a focused effort to help people reduce the calories and sugar they get from beverages. By working to change behavior within these communities, the initiative aims to help reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20 percent by 2025 – the single-largest voluntary effort by an industry to combat obesity.
The Community Initiative is a targeted component of the national agreement reached in 2014 by the Alliance, The Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, PepsiCo and the American Beverage Association to cut calories and sugar from beverages in the American diet. Communities with high obesity rates have been specifically selected to participate in this initiative in an effort to gain new insights into the marketing and distribution of smaller portion and low- and no-calorie options in areas where the obesity challenge is the greatest.
The Community Initiative will bring an aggressive, multi-pronged approach in communities where beverage calorie reduction has lagged behind the national trend.
Areas in the Montgomery region have among the highest rates of obesity in the country, so it’s important to understand the mix of actions that can make a difference in shifting engrained consumer behaviors, preferences and purchases.
"In the effort to curb the obesity epidemic in the United States, it is critical to reduce the number of calories consumed through beverages,” said Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance. “Focusing efforts in the Montgomery area, where we see some of the highest obesity rates in the country, is a tremendous step forward. We applaud the beverage industry for focusing on these communities and look forward to working closely with them to track and evaluate the impact of this work.”
“We’re eager to take our Community Initiative into Montgomery and Lowndes Counties to see how we can drive changes that help people reduce their beverage calories and achieve more balance,” said Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association. “Our companies are putting competition aside and going into communities where the obesity challenge is the greatest to put forward solutions that will make a real difference in peoples’ lives.”
“I am thrilled that Montgomery has been selected to be a part of this landmark effort to help reduce beverage calories in people’s diets,” said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. “Balance Calories Alabama is a great example of the private sector collaborating with government and the community to make a positive impact on our city and the lives of our citizens. We look forward to being a partner in this important initiative.”
“In order to be a prosperous county, we must be a healthy county,” said Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean. “It is a huge asset to have these American beverage companies with long-standing, deep roots in our community supporting the health and wellness of Montgomery County. Balance Calories Alabama empowers people with options and information to help them make the right choices for themselves and their families.”
With support from the Alliance, the companies will seek partnerships with local organizations and community leaders to increase the scope and impact of the initiative and drive change in the marketplace for the health and well-being of their communities.
An independent evaluator – Keybridge – was selected to evaluate and publicly report on the companies’ progress toward this calorie reduction goal.
Companies will try out a range of marketplace activities to change consumer behavior, including:
- Making no- and lower-calorie and smaller-portion beverages more available in stores
- Providing incentives for people to try these options
- Displaying new calorie awareness messages at points of sale
The companies will use tailored tools that combine their strengths in marketing, innovation and distribution to overcome barriers to consumption of no- and low-calorie and smaller-portion beverage choices. Throughout their communities, consumers will see a distinct change in how beverages are offered and marketed, including:
- More marketing of no- and lower-calorie options in stores and restaurants
- Smaller portion sizes emphasized, such as 7.5 ounce mini-cans and 12 ounce bottles and cans
- New calorie awareness information on coolers, vending machines and fountain equipment
- Companies may also utilize tools like taste tests, sampling programs, coupons and other incentives, and in-store displays featuring lower-calorie products
Each company will implement its own strategy and review what engages the consumer, as well as what doesn’t. These lessons will be used to improve the effectiveness of the initiative, with the best strategies being applied elsewhere in Alabama as well as other cities where they might work. All of these efforts serve the common goal of reducing calories consumed from beverages in the American diet.
This latest effort brings the number of communities that are participating in the Community Initiative to five. Communities within Los Angeles, Little Rock, Ark., and New York were the first to join and four counties in the Mississippi Delta, were announced in conjunction with the Montgomery and Lowndes Counties. The effort will eventually include 8-10 communities nationwide.
“America’s beverage companies are working to make sure people have the options and information to achieve a balanced lifestyle. Our goal is to help create effective and lasting changes for the communities we serve,” Neely said.
To learn more and join the movement, visit www.HealthierGeneration.org.