Pepsico’s Attempts to “Buy” Credibility Backfires

For Immediate Release

India Resource Center
Contact: 

Amit Srivastava
Phone: +1 415 336 7584

Pepsico’s Attempts to “Buy” Credibility Backfires

SAN FRANCISCO -  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.

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