No one disagrees that obesity is a complex social, economic, health and environmental issue that poses serious health risks. There is significant controversy on the role of business, particularly the food industry, in helping to bring solutions to this complex issue. As part of our business practices, PepsiCo believes it is our responsibility to address diet and health concerns working alongside government, NGOs and other global companies, as it requires a collective effort to effectively reduce the health risks of individuals. In our continued and ever-growing ‘Performance with Purpose’ platform, our CEO, Indra Nooyi, remains committed to the principles of public-private partnerships within best business practices.
PepsiCo has made steady progress in addressing the issues surrounding obesity by continual enhancement of our portfolio. There are many examples of this including the introduction of new products that offer improved nutrition. We continue to reduce portion sizes and reformulate some of our existing products to reduce calories, fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. In fact, over the time period from 2003 to 2008, total US beverage 8oz servings increased 7.2%, and total US beverage 8oz caloric intake decreased by 5.2%. Essentially, this means that total calories per average 8oz serving of US beverages are down 11.6%. In addition, we are expanding and strengthening our expertise to include physicians, nutritionists, scientists, public health experts, policy analysts and advocates to enable breakthrough innovation that can effectively address obesity and other serious diseases affected by overall diet and lifestyle.
Globally, Indra joined the CEOs of seven other major food and beverage companies in May 2008 in committing to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan to take specific steps in support of the 2004 WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. We are making tangible progress in explicitly addressing our commitments, some of which focus on obesity. These include new approaches to addressing marketing to children worldwide; promoting physical activity in many countries, including Mexico (through the PepsiCo creation of Vive Saludable) and the US (through a partnership with the YMCA); beginning to tackle chronic malnutrition in India, South Africa and Nigeria through a UN commitment supporting MDG1; and, finally, through our own PepsiCo Foundation, supporting community-based research aimed at developing evidence-based solutions to chronic disease prevention in the USA, UK, Mexico, India and China (Tufts University’s program ‘Shape Up Somerville’ being one such example).
There is much that still needs to be done. Obesity remains the only major public health problem for which we have no example of a sustained decline in any large population anywhere. That alone suggests we need a new and innovative plan of action to enable more sustainable partnerships that would draw upon all of our unique capabilities and expertise. In the June 2008 Pacific Health Summit meetings on nutrition, Dr. Margaret Chan (WHO D-G), Tachi Yamada (Gates Foundation), Ann Veneman (UNICEF) and Sir William Castell (Wellcome Trust) echoed recent calls by Director of NIH Dr. E. Zahouni for private-public partnerships to address global nutrition challenges. PepsiCo is committed and already engaged in such partnerships and we are confident that they will yield outcomes of benefit to health. Sustained progress requires that we build a firmer basis for private-public collaboration. Only through new and innovative partnerships can we make a difference.