PepsiCo plans to satisfy munchies with chickpea-based products

While potato and corn tortilla-based snack foods have long dominated supermarket snack shelves, PepsiCo is hoping to transform the industry with a new, billion-dollar investment that may produce a raft of foods from a different kind of food staple: chickpeas.

The underlying message is buried in a feel-good announcement touting the three-way partnership between PepsiCo's Foundation, the United Nations World Food Programme and the United States for International Development USAID, a project the partners say will "address malnutrition in Ethiopia."

Dubbed Enterprise EthioPEA, the initiative sets ambitious goals that will result in a two-fold increase in chickpea yield among the nearly 10,000 Ethiopian farmers, and feed 40,000 Ethiopian children aged 6-23 months.

But the investment isn't completely altruistic, points out Fast Company in an article posted September 22. In addition to ensuring a steady supply of chickpeas for the hummus made by Sabra, a PepsiCo-owned subsidiary, the company also plans to use the legume as a base for other products in development.
"Make no mistake: this is not just a charitable venture for PepsiCo.," it reads. "...In the future, everything might be made of chickpeas."

Indeed, the company announcement released this week reads: "For PepsiCo, chickpea-based products are an important part of the company's strategy to build a $30 billion global nutrition business by 2020."

Josette Sheeran, executive director of the WFP, meanwhile, said the public-private partnership is an innovative way of supporting the economy and pulling the locals out of perpetual poverty.

"With the ingenuity, power and reach of the private sector, we can make great strides in ending the malnutrition and hunger that is threatening the lives of millions."

PepsiCo has 19 different brands that include Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Frito-Lay and Pepsi Cola. The company scored a major coup this year when it recruited legendary chef Ferran Adria to their side. Adria will be the mastermind behind a range of new healthier snack foods and convenience items.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola also announced it had awarded $9.6 million in grant awards to 40 global community groups, including water stewardship projects, educational initiatives and nutrition programs. The company has also had to blunt criticism from environmentalists over its bottled water brand Dasani. Water advocates say bottled water undermines confidence in the public water supply and creates unnecessary waste with  plastic packaging. Dasani sources their water from the local water supply and is filtered using a process called reverse osmosis.