Folks, we didn’t make this up. Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s CEO, was recently interviewed by Fortune magazine. Substantial parts of the interview dealt with the mega corporation’s shift to healthier foods. To be more accurate, less-bad foods.
Currently, the largest food and beverage company in America receives $10 billion of its annual revenue, or 18% of its overall revenue, from what Nooyi likes to call “good-for-you” (read: healthier than average) products like Dole, Quaker Oats and Tazo teas. The goal? Up that figure to $30 billion by 2020.
Well, that’s interesting. Quaker Oats chewy granola bars with trans-fats are good for me? And Dole’s Peaches in heavy syrup?
Here’s what Mrs. Nooyi, a vegetarian, had to say about her industry and the world obesity problem:
If all consumers exercised, did what they had to do, the problem of obesity wouldn’t exist. But because society has changed so much, I think we can also be part of the solution by transforming our portfolio.
Get this, if we all did what we had to, we could eat Lay’s chips for breakfast and down it with a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Hitting the gym for an hour, we could then devour some Doritos for lunch together with a double cheeseburger.
If I look at our portfolio, I think you can classify them into three groups: “fun-for-you foods” like Pepsi, Doritos, Lays, and Mountain Dew, “better-for-you” products like Diet Pepsi, PepsiMax, Baked Lays, Sobi Life Water, Propel, all of these products, and “good-for-you” products like Quaker, Tropicana, Naked Juice, Gatorade.
There’s a place for balance in everyone’s portfolio. Our overall goal is to increase the number of great tasting, “better-for-you” products and “good-for-you” products, while making sure our “fun-for-you” products still have a place in consumers’ lives. Read more from Fortune…
While the progression makes sense in that each category is less bad than the previous, it simply is not true that Gatorade is good for anybody other than PepsiCo. Nor are fruit juices and drinks, whose sugar content is comparable to Pepsi. Doctors and Dietitians today do not recommend juice, rather eating a whole fruit, in order to gain all its benefits, especially the fiber.
And the amount of advertising dollars spent to get kids hooked on sugary soft drinks is much more aggressive than the benign making sure our “fun-for-you” products still have a place in consumers’ lives.
But how can you blame Indra Nooyi. Her first and foremost responsibility is to here shareholders. Consumers and environment are secondary, in each and every business decision. Yes, she is gearing her company to “performance with purpose”, and being a globally responsible corporation. With $100B in annual revenue, there is no doubt many of PepsiCo’s decisions have profound impact on the planet and on billions of people. So why not be really creative?
Imagine if the company really went all out for nutrition and health, dumping all the silly soft drinks and using its logistical centers and distribution capability to deliver local farm fresh produce to neighborhoods across the country. Imagine that instead of comping up with a new salt granule to make potato chips less salty, they would invent 10 new products from other veggies like broccoli and kale. That would be a true revolution.
Bottom line: In a sense, PepsiCo’s current moves leave consumers worse off now than in the past. We once knew better than to eat junk food. Now they’re telling us they’ve improved it and it’s healthy for us.
What to do at the supermarket:
Skip the beverage aisles completely. Nothing there for you. Tap water is better for you and the environment. The money saved ($500 for a family of four annually) can go to buying fresh fruits and vegetables.
And limit the snacks you buy to a handful at a time. Snacking does not have to be a bag of chips each time. A banana can also be a snack.