Blog: Hannah AbdullaPepsiCo hits out at palm oil "PR stunt"

Hannah Abdulla | 14 January 2015

US campaign group Sum Of Us has launched what PepsiCo called a "public relations stunt", criticising the beverage and snacks giant for its palm oil practices.

The ad campaign targeting PepsiCo's Doritos product, comprises bus posters and an online video called A Cheesy Love Story - the Ad Doritos Don't Want You To See. It also plans to undermine Doritos' Crash the Superbowl campaign - a competition which gives a member of the public the chance to create an ad to be aired during Superbowl.

"Each year, PepsiCo buys 427,500 tonnes of palm oil. Given how high profile the Doritos Super Bowl campaign is, we're using this opportunity to let consumers around the world know about PepsiCo's irresponsible palm oil sourcing policy. There's never been a better time to spread the message and make friends, family and colleagues aware of PepsiCo's practices," a statement on the Sum Of Us website read.

The fallout of Sum Of Us' campaign and the impact on Doritos sales will be interesting to see. PepsiCo - last year - revamped its policy on palm oil, pledging that by 2016 its palm oil will be largely free of rainforest destruction and peatlands conversion. 

Whether this is enough to appease campaigners is a separate question. Some may ask why it is taking so long.

Like many of its peers in the industry, PepsiCo is looking to develop a more sustainable sourcing of palm oil.

However, even Unilever, lauded by many NGOs for leading the way on palm oil has shown in practice how challenging it is to develop a sustainable supply chain.

In November, Unilever admitted it had fallen short of a worldwide pledge made a year earlier. It confirmed 58% of its palm oil was now "traceable to known sources," but the November before it pledged all of the palm oil it bought globally would be traceable to known sources.

A spokesperson for PepsiCo told just-food it had "repeatedly stated" it is "absolutely committed" to 100% sustainable palm oil with zero deforestation in its activities and sourcing.

PepsiCo added the "continual mischarecterisations" of its palm oil commitments by Sum Of Us were "patently false".

"This latest public relations stunt, focused on fiction rather than facts, does nothing to foster positive dialogue or affect positive change. We find our policies effective and stand by them," the spokesperson said.

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