Beverage industry fights back with Calories Count

After facing increasing pressure to help fight obesity by lowering or eliminating sugar in its drinks, beverage companies are fighting back with a campaign to prove their allegiance to healthy lifestyle choices.

After facing increasing pressure to help fight obesity by lowering or eliminating sugar in its drinks, beverage companies are fighting back with a campaign to prove their allegiance to healthy lifestyle choices.

The initiative, launched by the American Beverage Association, is called “Calories Count,” and it will add the nutritional information of beverages to vending machines. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are among the beverage giants taking part in the vending machine refresh.

In addition to including calorie counts, the effort will add more low-calorie and zero-calorie drink options to machines and will advise consumers to “Check then Choose” or “Try a Low-Calorie Beverage” on the buttons.

The campaign will initially launch in municipal buildings in Chicago and San Antonio, where the American Beverage Association will provide a $5 million grant to the city whose government employees see the biggest health improvements in terms of weight loss and lower blood pressure.

The vending machine refresh is expected to go nationwide sometime after next year's initial rollout.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the calorie-conscious effort isn't a bribe from the beverage industry to avoid bans or higher taxes, such as the sugary beverage ban of 16 ounces or more put in place by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg last month.

While the campaign may encourage some consumers to buy lower-calorie drinks, it's doubtful that it will make that big of a dent. Most people who drink full-sugar beverages strongly oppose diet drinks either because of the chemicals or the taste.

On the other hand, for those consumers who are already health-conscious, the calorie counts will be a much appreciated addition to vending machines.

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