Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, for starters, will start displaying calorie counts on vending machines in an effort to encourage consumers to make lower-calorie choices, starting in 2013.
The plan, explains Time magazine, falls in line with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s requirement that vending machines and restaurant chains with more than 20 locations display calorie information. The labels will be marked “Check Then Choose” or “Try A Low-Calorie Beverage.”
The industry initiative, called the Calories Count Vending program, will begin its launch in city buildings in Chicago and San Antonio, where government employees are participating in a “wellness challenge.” The nationwide rollout will begin next year.
Time reporter Olivia B. Waxman asked whether this move will make a difference in calorie consumption. Early research didn’t hold much water, but later studies were more promising, she reports: “Studies have found that calorie information, when presented clearly — and at the point of sale — does tend to sway people’s eating and drinking behaviors. In a December study published in the American Journal of Public Health, for example, researchers at Johns Hopkins went to corner stores in predominantly black neighborhoods and posted signs with calorie information about sugary drinks (sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks and the like) on refrigerated beverage cases.
“Overall, the study found, black teens — a population that is more likely to consume sugary drinks and is at higher risk of obesity than other groups — were 40 percent less likely to buy soft drinks when they saw the calorie signs. They were even less likely to buy them when the calorie labels put information in context: for instance, by noting that it would take 50 minutes of running to burn off the calories in one sugary drink. Those signs reduced soda consumption by 50 percent.” (Read the full story.)
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