Healthy versus indulgent snacks: there is a place for them all, says PepsiCo dietitian

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Frito-Lay launched its Simply Organic line last summer.  Pic: PepsiCo
Frito-Lay launched its Simply Organic line last summer. Pic: PepsiCo

Related tags Nutrition Pepsico

Elizabeth Roark, a registered dietitian and principal nutrition scientist for PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay, said not all snacks should or will fall into the health and wellness space.

Roark said there is an increasing number of people who want foods that are lower salt and saturated fat, but for some others, "moderation and portion control are more important.”

However, there will always be a market for indulgent snacks, she added.

E Roark Headshot
Elizabeth Roark Pic: PepsiCo

"Not all snacks should or will fall into the health and wellness space."

She said PepsiCo's Simply​ line launched last year is often mistakenly viewed as a healthy alternative to regular snacks because of the organic labeling, although they are "definitely not more nutritious."

However, she noted the line was created for those consumers who want to know where the product is made and where the ingredients come from.

"We know there is a segment of consumers who prefer things like USDA certified organic and non-GMO labeling,”​ she said.

Stance on non-GMO

Over the past several years, many of PepsiCo brands have adopted the non-GMO butterfly seal.

However, the company was among a group of large CPG manufacturers - including Nestlé and Coca-Cola - that each donated more than $1m to a Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) campaign in 2013 aimed to block a Washington initiative that would require the labeling of genetically modified ingredients.

The GMA has publicly stated the use of genetically modified ingredients is “safe for people and our planet”​ and “add desirable traits from nature, without using chemicals.”

“Our industry [has] dedicated tremendous resources to ensure there is not a state patchwork of labeling requirements," ​said GMA's spokesperson, Brian Kennedy.

“Food and beverage manufacturers provide consumers with a wide variety of product choices to meet their changing needs and preferences, and this includes non-GMO products.”

Roark added: “[PepsiCo is] supportive of having one set of national guidelines as opposed to state by state.”

Healthier snacking goal

Last year, PepsiCo launched its 'Performance with Purpose 2025' agenda aimed to ensure 75% of its global basket of products will not exceed 1.3mg of sodium per calorie and 1.1g of saturated fat per 100 calories.

“The goal aligns with global dietary guidelines to limit the amount of saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories,”​ said Roark.

“Regarding sodium, the World Health Organization recommends we consider the amount of sodium as it relates to calorie intake, and that’s where the mg per calorie comes in.

“The daily values on the Nutrition Facts Panel are based on a daily value of 2,000 calories, and Americans currently consume around 3,400mg of sodium, which is about 1.7mg per calorie. [Our target of] 1.3mg puts us closer to the US recommended limit of about 1.2mg per calorie.”

However, much work is needed to reach the goal, hence the 2025 deadline.

“When we [reformulate] a product, we want to make sure we meet the consumer preference for taste, because that is a priority for them - especially when it comes to snacking,”​ said Roark.

“That takes time for our product developers and culinary experts… [especially as] salt plays a technical role in some of these products."

Related topics Ingredients R&D Snacks PepsiCo Health

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