Better Food for All, Presented in Collaboration With PepsiCo
Today TakePart launches Better Food for All, a content series sponsored by PepsiCo. With this series we aim to tell you stories that inform your understanding of how the world eats and the challenge of ensuring everyone has access to healthy, safe, delicious food that is produced and delivered in a way that doesn’t destroy the environment.
As the world population grows—it’s estimated to increase more than 25 percent to nearly 10 billion by 2050—executing on this proposition is only getting harder. Producing and delivering food for that many people requires immense natural resources and a complex worldwide transportation system that can reach your corner grocery, big-box retailers, and remote markets in the far reaches of the globe.
Because of the scale of this food system, modern companies must think about how their businesses touch the broader world, not just their bottom line. They must consider the environmental impacts of their energy and water usage, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions created by their production and delivery systems. They must pledge to adhere to fair labor practices. In this project we’ll explain the efforts to meet these challenges and how those efforts might affect the way we eat and the way companies like PepsiCo run their businesses.
When we agreed to collaborate with PepsiCo, we did so with the understanding that the company was committed to exploring the subject matter openly and honestly. And yes, PepsiCo has sponsored this content with the goal of reaching our audience. Some of the content, namely two video pieces, is intended to highlight the company’s products and practices. TakePart worked with PepsiCo’s team to develop those videos, but outside of that, PepsiCo was given no sign-off on either the topics we covered or the stories we produced. The company agreed to invest in this project because it believed the subject was worth examination.
At first glance, working with a company like PepsiCo might seem an odd fit for TakePart. Our food coverage generally focuses on buying, eating, and growing healthy, often locally sourced foods—with stories on subjects such as sustainable farming, how to eat organic, and the risks of eating meat raised on antibiotics or plants treated with toxic weed killers. We want our readers to be informed enough to make smart choices for themselves and their families.
But not everyone has the same access to local farmers markets or organic foods, or the same tastes. The retail food industry is a $1 trillion–a–year business. No matter how many co-ops and farmers markets pop up, it won’t change the fact that millions of people around the world consume food that isn’t grown in the backyard or bought from a farmer. An enormous amount of the food we eat is mass-packaged by giant companies with the resources to reach remote areas of the world—companies like PepsiCo, which uses 11 billion pounds of potatoes, 50 million bushels of oats, and 2 billion pounds of oranges to produce products like potato chips, orange juice, and oatmeal.
Like it or not, that scale means multinational corporations are often better positioned than your farmers market to directly affect the food the world eats. To ignore this would be to limit our coverage to a sliver of the many issues surrounding our food system. Millions of people depend on packaged food to survive every day. So while we will continue to cover the importance of fresh, local foods, that coverage shouldn’t come at the expense of exploring the impact that multinational companies have on the world’s food supply.
Better Food for All is not all about one company. The modern global food system is an intricate web. We’ll explain the complex infrastructure and resources needed to feed billions of people and the obstacles to evolving that infrastructure. We’ll dig into what it means to source and sell “fair trade” products and how they’re certified. We’ll talk to experts about what policies, innovations, and developments are needed to contribute to sustainable, productive, cost-efficient food. The goal is to illustrate the many issues facing big food companies, including PepsiCo, as they try to balance their business goals with a commitment to improving their products and practices.
Isn’t PepsiCo the company that makes soda and potato chips? The simple answer: Yes, it is. We acknowledge that those products are not the healthiest and may not meet the standards of many of our most discerning readers. PepsiCo still sells more than $10 billion worth of potato chips in retail sales every year, meaning millions of people eat them—and have a right to eat them. We’re not attempting to change that or debate whether that’s a positive or a negative as a part of this project.
We’re interested in what a company of PepsiCo’s size and reach is doing to improve its products and operations. Is it sourcing the potatoes for its chips sustainably? Is it reducing water usage in its production processes? Is it cutting sugars and fats and educating people on healthier options—even if they choose to eat potato chips? To truly alter our eating habits for the better, these are questions the PepsiCos of the world must be asking and answering. Their reach is global, and the potential impact of their sustainability efforts is enormous.
In 2006, PepsiCo laid out a list of company goals that included commitments to healthier products (including reducing salt and sugar in many of its most popular foods) and more environmentally friendly operations (it has exceeded its goal of reducing water usage by 20 percent). At the 10-year anniversary of that pledge, how is the company doing? Our aim is to help you understand the challenges PepsiCo faced and to give the company an opportunity to weigh in on the complexities of their effort.
At the end of this project, we want to leave you with a stronger knowledge of the commitment needed to evolve the worldwide food system. You may not agree with every perspective we present, but hopefully, you’ll gain a better understanding of all the elements that go into feeding the world. We hope you’ll give it some thought and let us know how we’ve done.