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Two years after the Partnership for Healthier America, have calorie counts decreased?

In 2010, 16 food and beverage companies promised to reduce calories as part of the First Lady’s Partnership for a Healthier America. Two years later, how have they done?

Some of the country's biggest food and beverage companies are making strides toward curbing the nation's obesity epidemic, according to a new report set to be released today.

In 2010, 16 food and beverage companies teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama's Partnership for a Healthier America with the goal of reducing the number of calories sold by 1.5 trillion by 2015. According to today's report, they've exceeded that goal -- and more companies are realizing it doesn't hurt the bottom line, either. Turns out there is a lot of money in those 100-calorie packs of cookies and tiny soda cans.

"We know that lower calorie sales increased by about $25 billion compared to less than $300 million for higher calorie products," says Lisa Gable, president of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. The group includes food and beverage companies that pledged to cut the number of calories sold over five years. Gable says it worked, because people are more health-conscious.

"The consumer is asking for these products, and they are stepping up and meeting the consumer demand," she says.

Companies are meeting that demand in lots of ways, like cereal with less sugar. And that new smaller packaging gives companies a chance to toot their own horn about healthier ingredients.

"There's also a boost that the brand might get from being socially responsible," says Michael Cohen, who teaches marketing at NYU and did a study on the topic.   

A word of caution, though. Fewer calories are good, Cohen says, but Cocoa Puffs are still Cocoa Puffs. And the quality of those calories counts for a lot, too.

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I budget my calories just like I buget my finances and I count calories like they are nickles. I often find myself weighing cost differences and calorie count differences between products. I'll even sometimes buy something slightly more expensive, if it has fewer calories. So I understand completely why it pays off for companies to be sensitive to calorie counts.

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