The food industry is moving en masse to play its part in fighting obesity, according to a Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) survey examining industry reformulation efforts.
The GMA’s Health and Wellness Survey, conducted by Georgetown Economic Services, has been polling 57 companies since 2002, which together account for about half of all food and beverage sales in the United States. This latest survey found that from 2002 to 2009, respondent companies have introduced more than 20,000 products that have been reformulated to be healthier choices for consumers – and such introductions have doubled in the past three years.
GMA president and CEO Pamela Bailey said: “This data is a reflection of what consumers already know. Food and beverage companies are responding to consumer needs by providing thousands of healthier product choices that make it easier for shoppers to build a healthy diet for them and their families.”
Since 2002, reduction and elimination of trans fats has been a particular priority, and this was the top reason for reformulation of all products mentioned, accounting for nearly half of all reformulation efforts from the companies surveyed over the seven-year period, or 10,000 products.
Evidence linking trans fats (liquid fats that have been solidified by partial hydrogenation) with heart disease has mounted over the past decade. On the back of growing concern, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) issued a regulation that came into effect in 2006 requiring manufacturers to list trans fatty acids on the nutrition panel of foods, providing further motivation for manufacturers to slice trans fats from their products.
In addition, respondent companies have cut sodium in about 3,000 products since 2002, reduced calories in about 3,500 products, reduced sugar or carbohydrates in about 3,700 products, and reduced or eliminated saturated fat in about 6,600 products.
“GMA and its member companies fully support First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal of solving childhood obesity within a generation, and these results show that our industry is committed to helping Americans lead healthier lives,” Bailey said. “We are providing consumers with the products, tools and information they need to construct a healthy diet and lead a more active lifestyle.”
As well as reformulating foods, the companies surveyed have spent $130m on health and nutrition-related activities and community grants since 2002, GMA said.