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Pepsico’s Attempts to “Buy” Credibility Backfires
SAN FRANCISCO - July 9 - In a major embarrassment for food and
beverage company Pepsico, the company’s attempts to pay for blogging
rights in a science-based blog have been rejected after an outpouring of
protests on the blogosphere.
On July 6, ScienceBlogs.com, a widely read blog, announced a partnership with Pepsico that would allow Pepsico to blog about, of all things, nutrition.
In the first and only post of Food Frontiers, as the blog was named, the editors wrote:
“As part of this partnership, we'll hear from a wide range of experts on how the company is developing products rooted in rigorous, science-based nutrition standards to offer consumers more wholesome and enjoyable foods and beverages. The focus will be on innovations in science, nutrition and health policy. In addition to learning more about the transformation of PepsiCo's product portfolio, we'll be seeing some of the innovative ways it is planning to reduce its use of energy, water and packaging.”
The response to the announcement was immediate and almost universally negative, with writers for ScienceBlogs.com taking the lead. Many prominent bloggers for the site immediately announced their resignations, and many others temporarily suspended their interaction with the blog in protest of the partnership.
The bloggers objected to the idea that a company such as Pepsico, which is considered to be a major contributor to obesity as a result of their junk food portfolio, should have a blog on nutrition on a science-based blog.
The bloggers also objected to the idea that Pepsico had paid for the blogging rights on nutrition, and that the partnership was an attempt to convey Pepsico’s views on nutrition as “science based” and authentic. The bloggers pointed out that the Food Frontiers blog (edited entirely by a team of four Pepsico employees) was an extension of Pepsico’s public relations, and should fall in the category of “infomercial” or advertisement, and not on par with the rest of the blogs on ScienceBlogs.com.
Within a day, the owners of ScienceBlogs.com, Seed Media, offered to make changes to the Food Frontiers blog by prominently mentioning that it was a Pepsico sponsored blog and adding the following:
“This blog is sponsored by PepsiCo. All editorial content is written by PepsiCo's scientists or scientists invited by PepsiCo and/or ScienceBlogs. All posts carry a byline above the fold indicating the scientist's affiliation and conflicts of interest.”
The protests against the partnership continued and on July 8, 2010, just two days after the partnership with Pepsico was announced, Seed Media cancelled the partnership.
“Pepsico is trying very hard to position itself as a global leader in nutrition and in tackling obesity. But the vast majority of Pepsico’s products are junk food – they are not nutritious and lead to obesity and related health problems. Pepsico has to demonstrate its commitment to good nutrition and this will only happen if Pepsico fundamentally changes the vast majority of its products. Until then, their views on nutrition will be rejected, which the company found out the hard way by getting thrown out of ScienceBlogs.com,” said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.