Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple, PepsiCo Launch 'Calories Count' Vending Program

Top beverage companies join with American Beverage Association on health initiative

CHICAGO -- U.S. beverage companies on Monday announced a new Calories Count Vending Program, which they will launched in municipal buildings in the cities of Chicago and San Antonio beginning in 2013 and then will be made available to vending customers nationwide.

"We are proud to launch our Calories Count Vending Program with Mayor Emanuel and Mayor Castro, both of whom are deeply committed to reducing obesity in their communities," Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association, said.

Building upon previous industry initiatives that removed full-calorie beverages from schools and placed new calorie labels on the front of every bottle, can and pack, the Calories Count Vending Program will provide clear calorie information on vending machines, encourage lower-calorie beverage choices and remind consumers that "calories count" in all the choices they make.

The move comes ahead of a new regulation that would require restaurant chains and vending machines to post calorie information as early as next year, although the timetable and specifics for complying with that requirement are still being worked out, added an Associated Press report.

"Working with key stakeholders is an important part of addressing the public health challenge of obesity," Neely added. "With our Calories Count Vending Program, everyone who works in or visits a municipal building in Chicago and San Antonio will know exactly how many calories are in their favorite beverages before making a vending machine purchase--and they will be reminded that 'calories count' as part of achieving a balanced lifestyle."

Under the Calories Count Vending Program, The Coca-Cola Co., Dr Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo Inc. will work with government leaders, foodservice operators, vending companies and other customers to increase availability of lower-calorie beverages in vending machines; display a "Calories Count" vending snipe on the front of beverage vending machines reminding consumers to consider calories in their beverage choices with messages such as "Check then Choose" and "Try a Low-Calorie Beverage"; and add calorie labels to the selection buttons on beverage vending machines to show calorie counts per beverage container.

"At Dr Pepper Snapple Group, we are committed to giving consumers the flavors they love with fewer calories,"  Jim Johnston, president of beverage concentrates for the Plano, Texas-based company, said in a press statement. "Clearer labeling on our vending machines and a greater selection of low-calorie beverages inside will help consumers make the choice that is best for them."

Steve Cahillane, president and CEO of Coca-Cola Refreshments, Atlanta, said in a press statement, "Healthy people and healthy communities have always been a priority for Coca-Cola. Our support of the Chicago and San Antonio Wellness Challenge, and the new Calories Count Vending Program is another bold step in our efforts to help people understand the importance of energy balance. We believe partnerships like this--those which involve government, industry and civil society--can have a meaningful impact on the obesity issue. We applaud the cities of Chicago and San Antonio for joining us in this innovative initiative."