With a portfolio as huge as PepsiCo’s, there is no understating of the challenges of implementing and maintaining sustainable practices across its global operations.

The multinational company is said to generate over $1bn from each of its several hundred brands, which include Walkers, Doritos, Gatorade, and of course, the eponymous Pepsi.

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Its bottling factories reportedly number over 600 locations globally and the biggest of its 14 international factories is located in Denver, Colorado, which is estimated to be 1.2 million square feet.

So what does it look like to use this mammoth reach and influence in the food and drink industry for good?

Recent sustainable company initiatives have included its collaboration with the UEFA Champions League final event, which used recyclable and reusable packaging and the announcement of PepsiCo’s new platform, pep+, which aims to help customers reach their sustainability targets.

Packaging Gateway spoke to PepsiCo’s chief sustainability officer for Europe Archana Jagannathan for a peek behind the curtain at the company’s sustainable packaging operations.

Q: Can you share insights into the lifecycle assessment process that PepsiCo conducts to evaluate the sustainability of its packaging? 

A: At PepsiCo, we recognise the importance that a better food system results in positive outcomes for people and the planet. Over the past few years, we have accelerated our efforts to help make the food system more sustainable, regenerative and inclusive. This includes how we source ingredients, how we make and sell our products in a more sustainable way, as well as how we inspire consumers through our iconic brands to make better choices for themselves and the planet and how we support communities and improve livelihoods throughout our supply chain. 

As packaging plays a key role in our overall sustainability agenda, we leverage strategic oversight provided by our executive leadership and input from a multi-functional group of senior experts across Public Policy and Government Affairs, Research and Development (R&D), Supply Chain and the Office of Sustainability, among others to help guide us forward using the best practices. Our dedicated cross-functional team monitors and evaluates packaging issues on an ongoing basis, including progress against our goals. 

We are also guided by pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) for our strategic end-to-end transformation that has sustainability at the centre of how we create growth and value by operating within planetary boundaries and inspiring positive change for the planet and people. pep+ drives action and progress across three key pillars, one of which is the “Positive Value Chain,” which focuses on sustainable packaging and driving a circular economy.  

Q: How does PepsiCo engage consumers to encourage responsible disposal or recycling of its packaging?   

A: Recycling is a key part of PepsiCo’s long-term approach to sustainable packaging for our food and beverage products. We strive to support recycling wherever we do business, from retail to away-from-home settings. We were excited this year to partner with TURN, the world’s leading scalable reuse system that capitalises on smart technology to rid the planet of single-use plastic, at this year’s UEFA Champions League Final in Istanbul. This encouraged consumers to recycle through an incentive structure that makes the circular economy simple and effective for fans to complete seamlessly.      

Q: How does PepsiCo prioritise innovation and research to develop packaging solutions that balance functionality, brand appeal and sustainability? 

A: Smart packaging solutions are vital to our consumers and the health of our environment. We work with numerous different teams and executives, specifically the Research and Development (R&D) team, to continuously develop effective sustainable solutions that work towards a number of our priorities like functionality, brand appeal and sustainability.

We have a specific External Innovation (XI) team, which is part of our Global Research & Development (R&D) organisation, that actively scouts, identifies and develops strategic partnerships with external collaborators. Their goal is to locate key external insights, business models, technical unlocks and new capabilities that, when partnered with our robust R&D expertise, will yield disruptive innovation in our core products and create new and emerging products with a focus on improving all face of the value chain, specifically packaging. The External Innovation team works to identify and explore novel technologies, business models and partnerships that have the potential to increase the sustainability, efficiency and health of our robust foods and beverage portfolio. 

Q: Can you elaborate on PepsiCo’s goals and progress regarding its commitment to use 100% recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable packaging by a certain timeline? 

A: Packaging plays an essential role in safely delivering our products to our consumers. We design our packaging materials with several criteria in mind to balance, including compliance with food safety regulations, maintaining freshness and quality of the product, environmental sustainability, affordability and consumer preferences and convenience. The following goals make up PepsiCo’s pep+ sustainable and innovative packaging solution agendas for the near future: 

By 2025: 

  • Design 100% of our packaging to be recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, or reusable 
  • Invest to help increase recycling rates in key markets 

By 2030: 

  • Cut virgin plastic from non-renewable sources per serving across our global beverages and convenient foods portfolio by 50% 
  • Scaling new business models that avoid or minimise single-use packaging materials (for example, models that reuse, refill, prepare at home and utilise concentrates such as powders and drops.) 
  • Delivering 20% of all beverage servings sold through reusable models 
  • Reducing our absolute tonnage of virgin plastic from non-renewable sources by 20% by using market-leading bio-based and renewable materials and 50% recycled content in our plastic packaging 
  • Developing and deploying disruptive sustainable packaging materials and new models for convenient foods and beverages (for example, SodaStream, powders, bio-based materials and reusable or low/no package models) 

We aim to advance these goals by fostering cross-industry and public-private partnerships; advocating for improved recycling; composting and broader waste management infrastructure and regulatory reform; supporting the advancement of new materials; enhanced recycling technologies and alternative delivery models; collaborating with suppliers and partners; and helping to increase consumer education and acceptance.