Pepsi’s strategy: Create a research environment so scientists and public health experts don’t feel out of place at the corporate HQ of sugar, salt and fat.
Last month PepsiCo set off a firestorm among angry bloggers when the company attempted to buy its way onto the popular ScienceBlogs (run by Seed Media Group) with its own offering called Food Frontiers. Apparently, the actual scientists didn’t appreciate having their space invaded by PR flaks.
One blogger put it succinctly, “I don’t care how many PhD scientists they hire, PepsiCo is a corporation, not a research institute, for crissakes!” Within two days, ScienceBlogs apologized and pulled PepsiCo’s plug, but not before some disgusted bloggers quit altogether. (Food Frontiers continues to live on PepsiCo’s corporate Web site.)
While this story illustrates a victory in the battle against one corporation’s attempt to control scientific discourse, in the bigger picture, PepsiCo appears to be winning the war.
PepsiCo Picks off Public Health Experts One by One
Ask anyone who’s been in the public health field for at least 10 years if they’ve heard of Derek Yach, and the response is likely to be: “Of course, he’s a public health hero.” If you ask for a response to Yach’s decision to go work for PepsiCo, the reaction will be head-shaking. “Shocked,” “deeply disappointed,” “a blow to public health,” were all phrases I heard when the news came, in 2007, that one of the world’s most respected public health experts went over to the dark side.
Derek Yach’s story even plays a prominent part in a graduate-level food policy class at NYU that dedicates an entire class session to industry co-optation, because of its current impact on the nation’s debate over the obesity epidemic.
It was a personnel coup for the nation’s largest food company and purveyor of such notoriously unhealthy products as Mountain Dew and Cheetos. PepsiCo’s new “director of global health policy” came with a pedigree the company must have been salivating over.
You can read the rest of this article, originally published at AlterNet…
How Junk Food Giant PepsiCo Is Buying Up High-Ranking Experts to Look Like a Leader in Health and Nutrition