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PepsiCo opens nutrition driven research lab

By Guy Montague-Jones , 10-Dec-2009
Last updated on 10-Dec-2009 at 12:51 GMT

PepsiCo is opening a new research laboratory in New Haven to help “fundamentally improve” the nutritional portfolio of its products.

Located next to the Yale University campus, the new laboratory will focus on long-term projects in the field of nutrition. The lab will be PepsiCo’s ninth global regional research centre, joining others in the US, Europe and Asia.

In addition to the lab, the company plans to fund a graduate fellowship in the MD-PhD program at Yale School of Medicine to support nutritional research in areas such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity.

Nutritional overhaul

Taken together, PepsiCo intends for the two projects to help provide the scientific support for a nutritional overhaul of its product range.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to make it easier for consumers to lead healthier lifestyles,” said Dr. Mehmood Khan, PepsiCo chief scientific officer.

Achieving this does not simply mean reducing fat, sugar, and salt levels, and then fortifying products with health ingredients like vitamins and mineral.

Manufacturers are very wary of compromising on taste or making any radical changes to their products for fear of putting people off their brands. Improving the nutritional profile of products is therefore a research heavy endeavour that takes time to complete.

Research spending

Over the past three years, PepsiCo has increased its research and development spending by 40 per cent. A lot of that extra money has been channeled into giving its core soda and snack products a healthy makeover.

In Europe, for example, PepsiCo has introduced Baked Lay’s and Baked Walkers with 70 per cent less total fat than regular crisps.

Another strategy has been to spread out beyond the soda and snack core of the business in search of healthy growth. Investing in the Tropicana juice brand, and creating new varieties with new flavours and functional ingredients, is one example of this at PepsiCo.