In response to growing criticism of 'sugary drinks', several companies in the soda industry will be posting calorie content and other nutritional information on vending machines in the near future.
Not unlike other recent initiatives to list calorie content on restaurant menus, such as McDonald's announcement last month, come 2013 soda machines will begin to contain nutritional information for consumers to read as they make their beverage choices, reported San Jose Mercury News.
The initiative is called "Calories Count".
According to the Los Angeles Times, the postings will debut in government buildings in Chicago and San Antonio.
At this time it is not known when all vending machines will have these labels, although the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported additional machines in the U.S. are expected to display the information later in 2013.
Additionally, machines will also reportedly be stocked with more lower calorie options, although these details are not clear at this time. It could mean new products will be launched, smaller portions bottled or other possibilities.
Some are questioning the motive of the soda industry and imply this decision was made to appease growing concern about obesity and government intervention. A regulation requiring restaurants and vending machine operators to post nutritional information is expected to take effect next year.
"They're seeing the writing on the wall and want to say that it's corporate responsibility," said Mike Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates for food safety and nutrition, reported the Mercury News. Jacobson does also say this is a positive move indicating that people do not think about calories when choosing from a vending machine and this initiative will help.
The soda industry says this project was voluntary and not in relation to the forthcoming requirement.
"We have market research that says consumers really like this -- they like choice, they like the ability to make choices," said Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, a group that represents companies in the soda industry.
According to AJC, representatives of each of the three companies issued a statement on the decision to add calorie information on vending machines.
“It’s not about telling people what to drink,” said Steve Cahillane, head of Coca-Cola Refreshments. “People love our brands and they’re also telling us they want more choices and easy to understand calorie and nutrition information. We’ve always been able to tap into what matters to people, and that drives our marketing. This effort is no different. Anything we can do to make it easier for folks to choose what’s right for them is ultimately right for us.”
“At PepsiCo, we’re working to make lower-calorie beverage choices easier for consumers to make through the choices we offer and the information we provide," said Al Carey, Chief Executive Officer of Pepsi Americas Beverages. "Our industry is coming together on several leadership initiatives including this one in Chicago and San Antonio. We are taking the obesity challenge seriously, and consumers will see several meaningful examples of this in the upcoming year.”
“Rather than a first step, this program is yet another example of how the beverage industry is providing meaningful solutions to help reduce obesity," said Jim Johnston, president of Dr Pepper Snapple Beverage Concentrates and Latin American Beverages. "Consumers have told us what they need is information so they can make the right choices for themselves. That’s what this initiative is all about—informed choices, more lower calorie choices and transparent labeling on our products and vending machines.”
Increasingly, government is getting involved with regulation of 'sugary drinks'. Recently, New York City approved a ban on sugary drinks. With this new mandate, specific venues can no longer sell drinks larger than 16 ounces in New York City. At this time companies impacted by New York City's new mandate are reportedly seeking to fight the decision.
Reportedly, other local governments are looking at taxes or other restrictions on these types of drinks as well.