Food Companies Meet Obesity Half-Way

The food industry did itself proud today by announcing a commitment to reduce the calories in its foods by 1 trillion by the year 2012. Speaking from the White House and partnering with First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier American, the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) pledged to develop and introduce lower-calorie options than the foods currently available, lower the calorie content of current products, reduce portion sizes of existing single-serve products and to reduce fat and sugar in foods.

And lest you fear that the food industry capitulated by taking on all of the blame for obesity in the country, the HWCF noted that these product changes will account for ½ of the “energy gap” (the amount of calories consumed vs. the amount of calories expended), which was cited as the cause of the obesity epidemic. The other ½ will need to come from consumers themselves – by expending that additional energy.

With the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named as the watchdog that will ensure that food companies are complying, we can expect that the 80 member companies (including retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, sporting goods and insurance companies, trade associations and nonprofit organizations) will be touting their progress along the way. For food companies, this means that developing healthier products may no longer be news – it’ll be what’s expected. It also means that companies and organization that have not yet signed onto the coalition will need to figure out how they will respond – quickly.