Food Makers Get Healthy

Companies polish nutrition reputations as obesity concerns grow.

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Nestle named health care executive Ulf Mark Schneider as its next CEO, making him the first chief executive brought in from the outside since 1922.

The move comes as the maker of bottled waters, Kit Kats and Lean Cuisine frozen meals tries to evolve into a nutrition, health and wellness business, after starting an institute to develop "nutritional solutions for the maintenance of health" more than five years ago.

More broadly, companies across the food industry have been trying to polish their reputations on the nutrition front as obesity becomes a greater concern and they come under pressure for marketing foods full of fat, salt and sugar.

Here is a look at some of the industry moves:

  • Earlier this year, Nestle said it supported the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidelines for voluntary sodium reduction for food makers, and announced its own plans to further reduce sodium in its products.
  • Oreo cookie maker Mondelez International Inc. says it wants its "better choice" products to be 25 percent of its revenue by 2020. It said it also wants to expand its options that are 200 calories or less by 25 percent over the same time.
  • Mars which makes Snickers and other products including Uncle Ben's rice, recently announced plans to label its food products as "everyday" and "occasional," to help people make better choices.
  • Campbell Soup Co., known for canned soups and Pepperidge Farm cookies, has made acquisitions including Bolthouse Farms and Plum Organics in recent years to transform its portfolio and better reflect changing tastes. The company has said it wants to be a bigger player in the "packaged fresh" category.
  • In 2014, Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. pledged to reduce the calories Americans get from drinks by 20 percent over the next decade. The pledge came as the calories people get from drinks had already been falling as people shifted toward more lower-calorie drinks, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest.