NEW YORK —
— Special K cereal's sales are down 7 percent in the past two years, according to IRI, a market research firm based in Chicago. Kellogg last year rolled out "Special K Nourish" hot cereals that tout a blend of grains such as quinoa and barley. A Kellogg executive noted at the time that people are looking for nutritional benefits rather than just reduced calories.
— Nestle's Lean Cuisine saw a 27 percent drop in sales in the past four years, according to IRI. So the company introduced an "Honestly Good" line that boasts of natural ingredients and offers more generous servings at about 390 calories per box, rather than the 300 calories for regular Lean Cuisine meals.
— Both Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi saw sales volume fall by nearly 7 percent last year, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest. That was steeper than declines for their full-calorie counterparts.
Executives at Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. blame customers' move away from artificial sweeteners and say they're working on sodas using natural low-calorie sweeteners. The drinks are likely to have more calories than traditional diet sodas, but the thinking is that people will accept the tradeoff to avoid artificial ingredients.
— Weight Watchers updated its famous "Points" system in 2010 to consider the protein content of food; the new system is called PointsPlus. It also introduced a "Simply Filling" option that lets people eat from a list of "power foods" without counting points.
"We know that while calories are calories, how satisfied you are with eating those calories makes a difference," said Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer at Weight Watchers.
Perhaps most emblematic of calorie counts as a marketing gimmick are the 100-calorie snacks that flooded the market a decade ago. Some food companies are retreating from the strategy.