There is a line in the movie A Few Good Men that I think accurately describes the feeling many in the food and beverage industry have when it comes to the obesity epidemic in the U.S. Paraphrased, the line essentially reads “We are supposed to help those who can’t help themselves.”
It sure seems like there are plenty of American’s who can’t or aren’t “helping themselves.” Or perhaps they are helping themselves too much. It is estimated that 35% of Americans are obese, 70% are overweight. More alarming is that 20% of children are obese and 33% are overweight.
With those numbers in mind, three members of Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, (a partnership between retailers and food and beverage manufacturers) discussed the foundation’s short-term and long-term objectives at the recently concluded FMI show.
The underlying message from members Ric Jurgens, chairman and CEO for Hy-Vee, David Mackay, president and CEO for Kellogg’s and Denise Morrison, president, North America soups, sauces and beverages for Campbell’s, was that in order to make a difference everybody in the industry needs to get involved.
HWCF member companies have taken the first step by pledging to reduce Americans calorie intake by offering lower-calorie options as well as reducing portion sizes. While lower calorie options are terrific, when it comes to portion sizes I envision a problem. I know when I eat a 100-calorie snack I invariably go for seconds and sometimes thirds, and I’m sure I am not alone in this practice.
I guess the real question is, to paraphrase an idiom this time, you can lead people away from calories, but can you stop them from eating?