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Whether marketing 100-calorie packs or replacing high fructose corn syrup with “natural” sweeteners, food marketers have been hoping to attack childhood obesity by tinkering with their products in a process called reformulation.

This study casts cold water on the hopes of food marketers that reformulating their products will impact the childhood obesity problem.[1]

Nearly 40% of the diets of kids 2-18 come from “empty calories,” whether in the form of solid fats or added sugars. This is way beyond the 8-20% recommendation by the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Not surprisingly, the top offenders were sugar-sweetened beverages (both sodas and fruit drinks), “grain desserts” (cookies, cakes, donuts and pies), and pizza. The researchers concluded that simply reformulating these products will not remove enough calories to reduce obesity rates. According to an industry association survey,[2] up to half of all food & beverage marketers in the United States have reformulated up to 20,000 products by lowering or eliminating trans fat, saturated fat, calories, sugar or sodium.

[1] Source: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study analyzed the diets of children 2-18 with the goal of identifying where they derive their calories, plus their sources for solid fats and added sugars.

[2] Source: Grocery Manufacturers Association.