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PepsiCo last month revealed plans to open a long-term research laboratory in New Haven, Conn., adjacent to Yale University, with the goal of developing healthier food and beverage products. The Purchase, N.Y.-based food and beverage company will additionally fund a graduate fellowship in the M.D.-Ph.D. Program at Yale School of Medicine in support of nutritional science research, specifically in relation to such medical conditions as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity.
The lab is part of a big push by PepsiCo to boost the nutritional content of its wide array of products, which includes items put out by such divisions as Frito-Lay, Quaker, Pepsi-Cola, Tropicana and Gatorade. To reach that goal, the company has, over the past two years, hired respected clinical scientists, as well as nutrition, food safety, epidemiology and health policy specialists.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to make it easier for consumers to lead healthier lifestyles,” said Dr. Mehmood Khan, PepsiCo’s chief scientific officer and an endocrinologist. “We’re confident that the work we’ll be doing in New Haven, in collaboration with some of the world’s best scientists, will lead to advancements in nutrition and health for people across the globe.”
The group at the New Haven lab — PepsiCo’s ninth global regional research center — will conduct long-term research to come up with foods and beverages able to enhance people’s overall diets. Four of the company’s centers are in the United States, while others have been established in the United Kingdom, Mexico, China and India, with satellite centers in Thailand, Brazil and Australia.
Examples of better-for-you items already introduced around the world by PepsiCo are as follows: in the United Kingdom and Europe, Baked Lay’s and Baked Walkers with 70 percent less total fat than regular crisps; in the United States, Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice with two servings of fruit in every 8-ounce serving, and a juice variety containing added calcium and vitamin D; and, in India, the use of rice bran oil instead of palmoline oil, which has reduced saturated fats by 40 percent.
Over the past three years, PepsiCo has upped its investment in research and development by 40 percent, implemented new marketing practices, and acquired companies that make foods and beverages well beyond soft drinks and chips, including juices, dairy, hummus, and nuts and seeds. The company also early on provided healthy product choices for consumers, made use of the best available science and promoted healthy lifestyles for children.
“PepsiCo’s commitment to improving health through proper nutrition is of great importance to the well-being of people in this country and throughout the world,” observed Dr. Robert Alpern, dean and Ensign professor at Yale School of Medicine. “Extending this partnership to the M.D.-Ph.D. Program represents a visionary investment in one of the finest researcher-training programs in the world and thus to the future of science.”