The latest "soda war" is the fight to have your products seem healthy—and PepsiCo has enlisted some media allies
It used to be that the "soda wars" referred to Coke vs. Pepsi. No more. Today's soda wars are fought on the health front, as more and more evidence links sugary drinks to obesity and other health problems.
The current issue of The New Yorker has an article by John Seabrook (in which I am briefly quoted) about Pepsi's attempt to "health up" its snacks and drinks.
Seabrook's article, "Snacks for a fat planet," describes the extraordinary amount of money and effort Pepsi is spending to try to tweak its products to make them seem healthier. His article doesn't exactly give Pepsi a pass (as some of my readers have complained), but it does not really come to grips with how sugary drinks and snacks affect health or how Pepsi is marketing its products in developing countries.
That, no doubt, is why Pepsi has sent out a press release to reports that enclosed the complete article and suggested that reporters might be "interested in the company's focus on its innovative approach to":
- Reduce salt, fat and sugar across the portfolio - the New Yorker feature explains PepsiCo's effort to re-shape natural salt so that it has more surface area, and, in turn, is perceived as "saltier" on the tongue - meaning they can maintain all the salty flavor in Lay's but reduce overall sodium content
- Scale more drinks and snacks made with whole grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy to new markets - e.g. bringing vegetable-based gazpacho (perhaps with an edible whole grain spoon) to the U.S.
- Test new ingredients brought back from "treks" around the world - e.g. using a state-of-the-art robot in PepsiCo's new Hawthorne, NY research lab to test botanicals and other natural ingredients from near and far - e.g. even secluded villages in the far East - to determine their impact on taste and viability for use in PepsiCo snacks and drinks (Do they intensify sweetness? Can they be a substitute for sugar? Do they have a particular healthful function?)
Score this one as a win for Pepsi.