Addressing obesity, new vending machines promote nutritional information

The CalorieCount Vending Program being undertaken by the American Beverages Association will soon provide the country with vending machines replete with nutritional information to inform consumers making their soft drink choices—an attempt at addressing obesity in the U.S.

In 2013, The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi Co and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group will convene with government, health, and vending companies to create vending machines which will highlight the availability of low-calorie options and make caloric information easily accessible.

This effort, which represents the latest measure towards restricting the consumption of soft drinks, recognizes beverages as a means of additional calories and a significant factor in the rise in obesity rates.

The CalorieCount initiative comes preemptively for measures which will require transparent nutritional information as early as next year due to the Affordable Care Act. However, the beverage companies insist that it will enhance their bottom line as well.

“I think an understanding of what the consumer wants was the driver. That's why the product mix is what it is, why it's continually evolving, and why calories are front and center to help consumers be abundantly clear about what they're eating and drinking,” Mary Christ-Erwin, leader of Porter Novelli’s Food, Beverage, and Nutrition discipline, said in PRWeek.

Soda consumption has decreased since 1998 with the infusion of more varied beverage options in the market. This shift has caused beverage companies to focus more on their diet and non-soda options.

The CaloriesCount measure has been praised by various health advocacy groups who feel that making consumers aware of their caloric intake is vital to fighting obesity. Rich Goldblatt, SVP and director of the Better4You practice at M Booth, praised the program for its transparency in an often opaque market.

“Food companies also should be reaching out to consumers and parents to help them incorporate their products responsibly into everyday diets. Currently, there is a scarcity of campaigns doing that,” he said in PRWeek.

With caloric information soon to be available everywhere the customer turns, from fast food chains to restaurants to vending machines, there is a hope that the obesity rate will decline. This awareness of nutritional information and a national trend favoring other beverages over soda seem to be two critical factors that signal a move in the right direction.