Pepsi pledges to reduce sugar, fats in drinks and snacks

A multimedia press release on ‘products, people and planet’ explains plans to address obesity and diabetes epidemics worldwide.

Folks who may have needed an extra boost to get going Monday morning awoke to news that Pepsi plans to significantly reduce the amount of sugar in its beverages.

Fortune.com reported early Monday:

Pepsi has set a target for reducing the amount of sugar in its soft drinks around the world as part of a suite of goals aimed at tackling problems ranging from obesity to climate change.

The New York-based company [said] that by 2025 at least two-thirds of its drinks will have 100 calories or fewer from added sugar per 12 oz. serving, up from about 40 percent now.

The move, which it plans to achieve by introducing more zero and low-calorie drinks and reformulating existing drinks, comes as PepsiCo and rival Coca-Cola come under increasing pressure from health experts and governments who blame them for fueling epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

PepsiCo says the new global target is more ambitious than its previous goal of reducing sugar by 25 percent in certain drinks in certain markets by 2020.

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According to CNN, the change stems from shifting consumer needs and new dietary guidelines from the World Health Organization. On Monday, the news organization posted:

Many customers have tapered their intake of high-sugar, high-calorie soft drinks from Pepsi and Coca-Cola due to worries about sugar consumption. But at the same time, diet beverages have also been falling out of favor as consumers worry about chemicals in their drinks.

Both Pepsi and Coke have been trying to adapt to changing consumer tastes. Pepsi announced last year it would stop using the artificial sweetener aspartame due to declining sales and health concerns. Scientific studies have linked artificial sweeteners to obesity and diabetes.

But PepsiCo reintroduced aspartame to some products in September, saying consumers wanted more choices.

Nearly half of PepsiCo’s $63 billion in revenue came from beverage sales in 2015.

Along with its commitment to cut calories in its sugary drinks over the next decade, Pepsi also said it would reduce levels of saturated fat and sodium in the majority of its products.

Pepsi’s brands include Gatorade and Tropicana.

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The New York Times recently reported on potential government taxes on sugar-laden drinks:

A tax on sugary beverages raising their price 20 percent would result in a proportionate reduction in their consumption, the agency said. That would advance the fight against obesity, which has more than doubled since 1980. About half a billion adults were obese in 2014, roughly 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women.

“If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives,” Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO’s Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, said in a statement. “They can also cut health care costs.”

Obesity began rising in rich countries several decades ago but is now taking hold in middle-income countries like China and Mexico. Public health experts, alarmed by the trend, are studying policies that countries can enact to fight it.

One way is to tax sugary drinks, like sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks and iced teas. They have been linked to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay . Supporters of the taxes argue that discouraging consumption of such drinks could help reduce the toll of those ailments.

There hasn’t been much reaction from the medical community about Pepsi’s announcement.

Many people shared the news on Twitter, including a few snarky messages:

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How will this crackdown on sugar and saturated fats affect health care communicators and their outreach campaigns? What has your facility or practice done to counteract the detrimental effects of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup?

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