(Reuters) – PepsiCo Inc, best known for its cola and Lays potato chips, is now setting its sights on chickpeas.
The company is teaming up with the U.S. Agency for International Development to boost the production of chickpeas in Ethiopia by working with small farmers.
The plan is then to help develop local businesses that use the crop — and, at the same time, secure a supply of chickpeas for Sabra hummus, which PepsiCo owns together with Israel’s Strauss Group Ltd.
And in concert with the World Food Programme, PepsiCo will also develop a chickpea-based food supplement to target malnourished children in Ethiopia. If a pilot involving a few thousand children were successful, the company would spend $1 million to buy the product and distribute it for one year to up to 40,000 children, many of whom are suffering from the effects of famine.
“What’s different about this is that the need on the humanitarian side is dovetailing so perfectly with the business plan on the corporate side,” said Nancy Roman, the World Food Programme’s director for private partnerships.
PepsiCo is unveiling the plan on Wednesday at the Clinton Global Initiative, former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s annual philanthropic summit in New York.
PepsiCo also hopes to use the chickpeas to make a food product it can sell in the Ethiopian market, where it currently has a small presence selling locally produced drinks and some snacks imported from Egypt. It also would like to boost the amount of chickpeas it sources from Ethiopia, for use in its hummus spreads or for other potential products in the future.
Derek Yach, senior vice president of global health and agriculture policy for PepsiCo, emphasized the business case for the project along with the humanitarian case.
“You have to have a profit margin if it is going to be sustained,” Yach said in an interview at PepsiCo headquarters in a New York suburb. “This is not the Ethiopia one normally thinks of. We are coming in early, when opportunities are at their maximum and government is supportive of real change.”>>Read More on Reuters