There was a really interesting article in the New Yorker last week about PepsiCo. To get you up to speed, America is fat, and one of the ways they got there is through PepsiCo products (soda, potato chips). So while not blaming her delicious products, the CEO of Pepsi Indra Nooyi wants to make her treats less salt, sugar and fat-laden, though of course they’ll still taste that way. In the piece, she quotes the CEO of Citibank, who said something stupid before the crash about as long as the music is playing, you gotta dance. Her point is that people are fat, and eventually they’re going not to be. If PepsiCo still wants to sell potato chips—and they do—they need to make their chips more healthful.
It’s not like she’s interested in the body mass indexes of Americans; she just knows eventually fear of type II diabetes is going to drive consumer decisions. So health products are now a brand. Look, there was an article about false claims of healthfulness in the Times on Sunday. Here’s the link. And it’s the same with the environment. Green is the biggest brand there is right now. People totally love buying things made from recycled materials.
My best friend is in Bulgaria right now, and she visited this village where there was just nothing. No jobs, no industry, no food, nothing to recycle and nothing to buy. When she told me about this, my first reaction was that a factory would just totally change everything in that town. My second reaction was, crazy how I think the solution to capitalism’s failings is more capitalism. It’s like that Henry David Thoreau quote, “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”
It’s not that I’m against capitalism. I’m not at all. I love things. Buying them, owning them, the whole experience of them. So in a way, I’m glad PepsiCo is trying to make money from lower sodium salt content and people fetishize green products. It’s better than the alternative. I’m just saying that the only way to get people to do something is get them to buy something.