by Candice Choi
NEW YORK — As criticism over sugary sodas intensifies, Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are rolling out new vending machines that display just how many calories are in their drinks.
The machines will let customers see the calorie counts for drinks before making a purchase. They will launch in Chicago and San Antonio municipal buildings in 2013 before rolling out 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 consumers to consider alternatives with messages such as “Try a Low-Calorie Beverage.”
A 12-ounce can of regular soda typically has about 140 calories and 40 grams of high-fructose corn syrup. Most diet sodas, which are sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, have zero calories.
Starting next year, Coca-Cola says its vending machines in the two cities will feature calorie information for each beverage choice. The Atlanta-based company notes that it already provides calorie information on the front of its drinks rather than just on the nutrition panel on the back.
The move comes as the soda industry has come under increasing fire for fueling obesity rates. Last month, New York City approved a 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.
Soft drink makers are also dealing with shifting consumer habits. On a per capita basis, soda consumption in the U.S. has been declining since 1998, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest. The decline is partly the result of the growing number of beverage 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.