NEW DELHI: PepsiCo has silently taken off the ‘Snack Smart’ logos from the packs of its snack foods like Lay’s chips, Kurkure and Cheetos as it gives up rice bran oil to cook its snacks four years after launching the snack smart initiative.
Starting March this year, the company has been using cheaper palm oil to cook its snack brands as a cost-saving measure, three officials in knowledge of the development told ET. A PepsiCo spokesman confirmed the switch. “Our analysis of consumer feedback on the use of rice bran oil showed that the consumer did not show any added preference to the use of rice bran oil,” he told ET.
The ‘snack smart’ logos used to claim that the brands, apart from being cooked in healthier oil, had 40% less saturated fat, zero trans fats and no added monosodium glutamate. Beginning the second half of 2007, PepsiCo had been saying across various multimedia campaigns and announcements that it had switched to cooking all its snacks brands in rice bran oil, instead of the earlier palm oil.
Pepsi’s website, snacksmart-.co.in, still shows actor Saif Ali Khan promoting the ‘snack smart’ logo for its Lay’s chips. It says rice bran oil, used to cook Lay’s, Kurkure and Cheetos, is “naturally high in good fats and 22% lower in saturated fats”.
Typically, the cost difference between snacks cooked in rice bran oil and palm oil is about .`8-10 per kg. PepsiCo’s decision to silently withdraw the logo and switch to cheaper oil has not gone down well with health activists. Centre for Science and Environment Director Sunita Narain said the move amounts to taking the consumer for granted.
“If Pepsi spent crores telling consumers about the meaning of the ‘snack smart’ logo in the past, they should now tell consumers why the logo is off on the same marketing budgets,” Narain said. “They should have Saif Ali Khan on TV telling consumers why the logo is off.” Narain had triggered an outcry against Pepsi and Coke in 2006 by saying their soft drinks in the country contained pesticide Pankaj Sharma, chief trustee of Centre for Transforming India (CFTI), a Delhi-based NGO that works on health and environment issues, said companies should have self-regulation.
“Either they should not bother telling consumers details of cooking medium (or)…they should tell consumers about changes as well.”
The PepsiCo spokesman insisted that the company is not taking its focus away from healthy food. Lay’s has significantly reduced sodium in Lay’s Classic salted and all its snacks are free of MSG and trans fat, he says.
The company has also launched a baked version of Lay’s potato chips. “A new range of baked, multi-grain products under the Aliva brand is next in the offing,” the spokesman said.
With growing health concerns and mounting criticism over widespread obesity, food and beverage majors have begun adopting nutritional labelling in the country, in line with global trends, to reduce portion sizes, reformulate existing products to reduce saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugars and sodium.
Several companies including the two cola majors, Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods and Mars came together in March last year to sign an India Pledge, a set of guidelines to restrict and regulate propagating unhealthy foods on the lines of the European Union Pledge.
The pledge involves the companies making individual commitments to social responsibility in marketing food and beverage products to children, and providing a framework to promote healthier dietary choices.
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