Don’t Ask, Tell | food preparation


If there was a Hall of Fame CEO, Indra Nooyi, who led PepsiCo from 2006 to 2019, would be one. By all relevant standards, she was a superstar, driving up sales and revenue while more than doubling the stock price. She was also known for her sense of corporate social responsibility, including pushing PepsiCo to improve the safety of its product portfolio.

But that doesn’t mean she’s been universally admired throughout her tenure, especially when it comes to the “health” part. I remember reading an account where she was approached by an impatient shareholder who thought her emphasis was misplaced: “What are you, Mother Teresa? We are American ! We eat chips and we drink soda!

There’s a nasty whiff of xenophobia in that statement, but the man was right. Let’s face it: PepsiCo makes most of its money selling fried starch and sugar water.

This exchange came to mind when I came across a report from the Nutrition Access Initiative, claiming to rank as the 11th largest food processing company in the world based on the quality of their products and their attitude towards nutrition in general.

This is the second classification of this type; the first was four years ago. The folks at the Nutrition Access Initiative strike a dubious tone when discussing the industry’s overall approach: “While all companies have placed more emphasis on nutrition in their company since the first index was released in 2018, their actual products have not become healthier, and they are not doing enough to protect children from the marketing of unhealthy products.

For me, this raises some fundamental questions: what efforts should they do? What efforts can and should be of confidence TO DO?

Almost all of the companies listed in this report derive much, if not the absolute majority, of their sales from foods and beverages that are obviously unhealthy. Whether it’s candy, breakfast cereal with tons of sugar, or fatty processed meats, unhealthy produce is making big money for these behemoths. To ask them to stifle this is to ask them to commit economic suicide.

That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do anything. They should certainly be encouraged to develop (or establish in the first place) a portfolio of healthier products. But I don’t know if that would be effective.

No, if we want Big Food to preserve the nutritional health of the nation, we will have to to tell about tell them what to do, not ask them. The report makes a move in this direction when it talks about front-of-package nutrition labelling: “In the absence of clear government guidance, companies are encouraged to adopt an interpretative front-of-package labeling system. packaging in the United States (as is the case in other countries).

Well, those other countries – there are only a few – haven’t “encouraged” food companies to start disclosing the amount of fat, sugar, etc. on the label. in their products; they made them do it. I highly doubt that the food companies in Chile, for example, have voluntarily put stop signs on their front labels. If we make front-of-package labels optional, they will become just another marketing tool.

Yes, the government’s heavy hand should only be a last resort. But expecting food companies to make big changes to unhealthy product portfolios that make them big bucks will only yield bland, innocuous statements of support, with very little real change — just like the folks in the industry. Nutrition Access Initiative have documented this over the past four years.

A recommendation that the folks at ANI have made, I hope the industry will be adopt is: Stop lobbying against government efforts to improve America’s nutrition. It’s bad enough that you’re being asked to do the right thing; kicking and screaming while this is happening won’t be a good look.


Comments are closed.