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PepsiCo sets goals to lower sodium, incorporate more diverse ingredients

Dive Brief:

  • Snacking giant PepsiCo is aiming for at least 75% of its global convenient foods portfolio volume to meet or be below category sodium targets by 2030, the company said in a statement.
  • The Doritos and Fritos maker also vowed to increase its use of ingredients, such as legumes, whole grains, plant-based proteins, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds, to promote a more nutritionally diverse diet.
  • The commitments are part of PepsiCo’s so-called Pep+ program established in 2021 that targets having a more positive impact on the environment, supply chain and the foods people consume. 

Dive Insight:

PepsiCo’s snacking business, which is composed mostly of Frito-Lay and Quaker Oats, is a lucrative part of the company’s business.

It generated more than $26 billion in sales in North America during the company’s 2022 fiscal year — accounting for a little less than a third of the CPG giant’s $86 billion in global sales. PepsiCo estimated people consume its food and beverage products more than 1 billion times a day, the company said.

As consumers place greater importance on eating healthier and the impact the foods they consume have on the environment, CPG manufacturers like PepsiCo have little choice but to make changes to the products they sell.

But the effort is often harder than it appears, which is a major reason why companies set targets several years out.

Small tweaks to how much sodium or what ingredients are used can have a major impact on taste, texture and how the product is manufactured as well as the way its inputs are sourced. If a Doritos chip, for example, doesn’t taste exactly like what a consumer remembers enjoying, they may be reluctant to buy it again. Shoppers could instead move to a product made by a competitor.

“We are in a constant cycle of innovation to reimagine the foods we make and how we make them so we can bring better choices to our consumers, without ever compromising on taste,” René Lammers, executive vice president and chief science officer for PepsiCo, said in a statement. “We set a high bar to improve the nutritional profile of our products, and these new goals reaffirm our ambitions.”

For sodium, PepsiCo said its new reduction goal considers guidance from public health experts, including the World Health Organization. It is about 15% to 30% lower than the company’s current target for key convenient food categories. The new target aims for a 15% sodium reduction in PepsiCo’s U.S. Lay’s Classic Potato Chips, which would result in a sodium level of 140 milligrams per 28-gram serving.

PepsiCo’s Mustafa Shamseldin, category growth officer and chief marketing officer for international foods, told Food Dive that cutting salt in its foods “is the right thing to do … and that so far, it’s been positive for our business.”

PepsiCo is no stranger to incorporating different, better-for-you ingredients into its portfolio. It sells Bare baked fruit and coconut snacks and Off the Eaten Path vegetable crisps. It also offers a version of its SunChips brand that has black beans along with the customary whole grains as part of its ingredient list.

In further diversifying its ingredient mix, PepsiCo said it will try to reach 145 billion portions of diverse ingredients annually in its global convenient foods portfolio by 2030. Each portion will provide approximately 10% of the suggested daily amount of a diverse ingredient.

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division has previously introduced healthier versions of its popular brands that limit sodium and saturated fat while adding more fiber, whole grains, vegetables and protein. Brands impacted included Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostitos, Lay’s, Ruffles and Rold Gold.

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