INDIA- Snack and beverage company, PepsiCo India has started experimenting with a blend of palm olein and sunflower oil to replace a blend of palm oil and palm olein in its potato chips brand Lay’s. 

This decision follows criticism over using cheaper ingredients, considered unhealthy, in packaged foods in India. Palmolein is a liquid segment acquired through refining palm oil, both of which are sourced from the oil palm fruit. Palm oil is semi-solid. 

In the United States, the company uses “heart-healthy” oils such as sunflower, corn, and canola oil for Lay’s. On its US website, the company states, “Our chips are cooked in oils that may be considered heart-healthy.”  

As part of the company’s efforts to respond to customer sentiments, PepsiCo India has plans to reduce salt to less than 1.3 mg of sodium per calorie by 2025. 

In response to the backlash, PepsiCo’s spokesperson said the company uses different ingredients and recipes depending on various factors, such as manufacturing capabilities, local preferences, ingredient availability, and the prevailing market dynamics.  

The spokesperson reiterated listing the ingredients in labeling enables customers to make conscious purchase decisions. 

Palm oil is significantly cheaper compared to the other healthier oil options. It is widely used by the numerous snacks and confectionary brands in India.  

Cheaper ingredients in packaged foods  

Packaged food companies, particularly multinational corporations, have been criticised for using cheaper or less nutritious ingredients in developing nations than in the US and Europe. 

Recently, Nestle India announced plans to develop a no-added-sugar version of its infant food Cerelac after facing controversy over higher levels of added sugar in Asia and Africa. 

This followed a report by Swiss investigative organization Public Eye and the International Baby Food Action Network, indicating that Cerelac contained nearly 3 grams of sugar per serving in India. 

The Swiss food giant’s products in lower-income countries contained up to 7.3 grams of added sugar per serving, while the same food sold in Europe often contained none. 

The report said sugar had been included in Nestle’s infant foods in low- and middle-income countries such as India but not in developed markets like the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, and other European countries. 

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