The fight against obesity remains at the forefront of the public health agenda here in Kentucky and throughout the United States. At the Kentucky Beverage Association (KBA), it’s at the top of our agenda as well. We believe effective measures to reduce obesity require all segments of society—including the beverage industry—to work together on comprehensive solutions. In my role as the Executive Director at the KBA, I work with Kentucky beverage producers, distributors, and franchise companies, as well as national beverage industry leaders, to develop effective and consumer-friendly ways to support people, particularly moms, looking to cut their sugar from beverages.
The beverage industry has taken voluntary, proactive steps to reduce the calories Kentuckians get from beverages, including reformulating beverages to include less sugar, offering smaller portion sizes, voluntarily removing full-calorie sodas from schools so parents can have better control balancing what their children drink, bringing more low- and no-calorie products to market, and providing more information to consumers (e.g. explicit calorie labels on the front of packaging). Because of these efforts, nearly half of beverages consumed today are calorie-free and the number of beverage calories delivered to schools has been cut by 90 percent.
As companies with deep roots in Kentucky and thousands of employees and customers, we care about the health and the prosperity of our communities. That’s why fierce rivals Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group are working together with public health and government officials to increase consumer education and expand access to low- and no-calorie beverage options on grocery shelves throughout Kentucky. We’re doing this by using our resources to spotlight beverages with less sugar. And we’re tapping our strengths in marketing, innovation and distribution to encourage people looking to manage their consumption of added sugars to try lower-calorie options.
In partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the beverage industry has committed to increasing access to beverages with less sugar and smaller portion sizes in Kentucky and communities throughout the United States. Through best practices piloted by the Balance Calories Initiative, the industry aims to significantly reduce the beverage calories consumed per person in the coming years.
When government, public health officials, and local partners work with private sector leaders to empower consumers and their families to make balanced nutrition decisions, we can make bigger strides toward sustained, long-term reductions in obesity while finding solutions that work for everyone. I’m optimistic about the progress the beverage industry has made to date here in Kentucky – and across America. When it comes to affecting change in consumer behavior, we go further and faster by working together.
Leslie A. Fugate is Executive Director of the Kentucky Beverage Association.