Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
NEW YORK (AP) — As criticism over sugary sodas intensifies, Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are rolling out new vending machines that will put calorie counts right at your fingertips.
The counts will be on the buttons of the machines, which will also feature small posted messages reminding the thirsty that they can choose a low-calorie drink. The vending machines will launch in Chicago and San Antonio municipal buildings in 2013 before appearing nationally.
The American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., said Monday that the machines will increase the availability of lower-calorie drinks and remind customers to consider alternatives with messages such as “Try a Low-Calorie Beverage.”
“We have market research that says consumers really like this — they like choice, they like the ability to make choices,” said Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association.
But she said the group has not done any research on whether providing such information impacts the choices people actually end up making. Notably, the ABA has aggressively fought New York City’s ban on the sale of large sugary drinks, as well as measures in other municipalities that would tax sodas.
A mock-up of the new machine provided by Coca-Cola showed 20-ounce bottles of its flagship drink and Sprite inside vending machines, with small labels on the glass stating “240 calories.”
The move comes as the soda industry has come under increasing fire for fueling rising obesity rates. Last month, New York City approved a first-in-the-nation plan to prohibit the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces in the city’s restaurants, movie theaters and stadiums. The beverage industry aggressively fought the measure, saying it takes away customer choice.
This November, voters in Richmond, Calif. will also decide whether to approve a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks.
Soft drink makers are also dealing with shifting consumer habits. Soda consumption per person has been declining in the U.S. since 1998, according to the Beverage Digest. The decline is partly the result of the growing number of drink options, such as flavored waters, bottled teas and sports drinks.
As a result, Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are focusing on developing more diet drinks, as well as expanding into other types of drinks to reduce their reliance on sodas.
Coca-Cola, based in Atlanta, notes that it already provides calorie information on the front of its drinks rather than just on the nutrition panel on the back.
There is no timetable for when all machines will be converted. Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper sometimes work with third-party vending machine operators; Neely said the companies will work with in those cases to convert machines.
Vending machines account for about 13 percent of sales volume, a figure that has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, according to Beverage Digest.
Although other factors such as a lack of physical activity and overeating also contribute, soda consumption is often identified for playing a role in rising obesity rates.
Last month, the New England Journal of Medicine published a decades-long study of more than 33,000 Americans that showed sugary beverages interact with genes that affect weight, meaning they are especially harmful to people who are hereditarily predisposed to weight gain.
Two other major experiments have found that giving children and teens calorie-free alternatives to the sugary drinks they usually consume leads to less weight gain.
Taken together, scientists say the results strongly suggest that sugary drinks cause people to pack on the pounds.
Bonnie Sashin, who works as a communications director for a nonprofit in Brookline, Mass., says she stays away from sugary drinks and “empty calories,” limiting herself to a can of Diet Dr Pepper or Diet Coke about twice a month. But she thought the move to display calorie information on vending machines was a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s a positive trend,” Sashin said. “Anything that helps us be more educated about calories is a good thing.”
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Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)