Last week, we represented PepsiCo at the Vision 2020 Conference on “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health” in New Delhi. The conference, organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute, was opened by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. PepsiCo was the only private sector sponsor of the conference, along with international development agencies and development banks.
The meeting focused explicitly on the links between agriculture and nutrition and aligned with some new powerful movements gaining momentum such as Scaling Up Nutrition and Hillary Clinton’s Thousand Days Initiative. These programs aim to support nutrition, not just the production of more food for the world’s population.
As the world’s second largest food and beverage company, PepsiCo is embedded throughout entire value chain, from food producers all the way to food consumers. We depend on agriculture for all the ingredients that go into our foods and beverages. As Indra pointed out in her video message presented at the conference, “Companies like PepsiCo are uniquely positioned to help farmers and growers improve production, processing, and manufacturing. We can use our supply chain expertise to reduce food waste and deliver better nutrition.”
Those strengths are what can make PepsiCo a leader in linking agriculture and nutrition and a relevant participant at conferences such as Vision 2020. Not only could we learn from interactions at this meeting, but we were also one of the handful of private sector players here who can take what we learn and “just do it.” We believe our scalability across the value chain gives us a natural advantage to make a greater impact than many NGOs and governments working alone. Just as important, we have the motivation to ensure that nutrition is maintained throughout our supply chain. The value chain approach can help guide us in this effort:
1. The value chain approach helps to identify gaps and opportunities to unlock consumers’ access, increase demand and acceptability to nutritious food
2. The supply chain can be used to figure out how adding nutrition value adds economic value to the products
3. The value chain approach offers possibilities for coordinated, multisectoral solutions, for example in financing, marketing and impact assessment.
The food industry needs to give careful consideration to the nutrition that people need. One billion people don’t have enough to eat and over 1 billion are overweight and 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. The good news is that a balanced diet rich in certain foods – legumes, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy – are good for all, and they’re also good for PepsiCo’s business. Our work in chickpea in Ethiopia will yield a nutritious supplementary feeding product for undernourished children, but will also be the foundation for nutritious snacks and main meals for retail. (Contrary to popular perception, about 60 percent of the world’s population can afford and are willing to pay for value-added foods and beverages.)
Engaging in these type conferences gives us the chance to meet with people and organizations that can help us meet our objectives – those who can help unlock financing mechanisms to support our work in Ethiopia, and those who can help us evaluate and communicate our work effectively with governments and civil society.
Most of all, our engagement in this conference helped to dispel some of the concerns that this community of academics and policy-makers have about the food industry.
Despite some negative rumblings about PepsiCo being a sponsor of the conference, we had many supporters. Our India business set up a booth at the conference to showcase our pioneering work with farmers in direct-seeded rice and potatoes; India’s heart health mission; Dr. Mehmood Khan’s presentation on the Global Nutrition Group; and demonstration of some of our more nutritious products including Tropicana juices, Aliva crackers and Quaker Oats. Many visitors to the booth learned not only that PepsiCo produces much more than just a soft drink and how our work makes explicit links between agriculture, nutrition and environmental sustainability.
We come away from the conference with a sense that there is great momentum and energy to bring together the worlds of agriculture and nutrition. What we have also learned is that few actors have the ability to have an impact the way PepsiCo does. One of the key designers of this conference said to us that the public sector and NGOs want to discuss how to do this, and want to get all the details right on paper – while the private sector will just go out and do it!