Pepsi may seem an unlikely advocate for nutrition given its well-known product portfolio of sugary sodas and salty snacks. But lately it’s been giving staunch skeptics good reason to believe that the company is truly committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Earlier this month, Pepsi signed on to support First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative to combat childhood obesity. Said PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi:

We applaud the effort being led by First Lady Michelle Obama to address obesity in the United States and believe that her ‘Let’s Move’ campaign can add significant momentum and leadership to many efforts underway. … Major food companies such as PepsiCo are in a unique position to be leaders in health and wellness because of our resources, brands, research and development capabilities, consumer reach and logistics expertise.

This follows Business Week’s coverage last month of Pepsi hiring several health experts from organizations like the Mayo Clinic and the World Health Organization. According to the article, these moves do not stem from mere altruistic motives — they make strategic sense for furthering Pepsi’s business interests.

Customer tastes have been shifting continuously over the past few years from consuming carbonated soft drinks and traditional potato chips to healthier beverages and nutritious snacks. In order to capitalize on this new demand, it was only a matter of time before companies like Pepsi realized that they had to evolve their product offerings to keep up with changing tastes. Pepsi has even gone so far as to launch a section on its corporate website devoted to the subject.

So does the financial incentive for a health kick make Pepsi’s efforts less valuable? On the contrary, it makes these efforts even more valuable. By being strategic with its corporate social responsibility initiatives and choosing to engage on issues intimately connected to its business, Pepsi is able to speak with authenticity and use its power to effect real, meaningful change.

Pepsi is also not alone in these efforts. As The Huffington Post reported, the cola wars are becoming less about which brand has the hipper image, and more about which brand is more socially responsible.


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