PepsiCo launched its PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator programme for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in November last year, its first edition specially focused on the region. Earlier this, year, the firm announced 10 local finallists had been shortlisted and awarded a US$20,000 grant as well as guided mentorships, and are now going through the six-month accelerator programme in hopes of winning a US$100,000 grant from PepsiCo at the completion of this.
“At PepsiCo, our sustainability approach is integrated into, not separate from, our business. We’ve thought very hard about how to ensure that our approach [has] a meaningful, tangible impact on building a more sustainable food system [and] realised that innovation is crucial to our efforts,” PepsiCo CEO Africa, Middle East and South Asia Eugene Willemsen told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Therefore, we want to nurture the next generation of innovators by supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs to launch and grow new businesses that are looking to change the future of the global food supply chain.
“[The aim of this programme] is to push for solutions and innovations in the packaging space that will hopefully not only help PepsiCo but also the wider food industry in powering the changes needed for a more sustainable total food system.
“[The top 10 start-ups] were selected by a specially curated selection committee comprised of high-ranking PepsiCo executives, members from Dubai’s Food Tech Valley and the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) ranked the start-ups across five criteria: sustainability alignment to PepsiCo’s pep+ sustainability framework, strategic synergy with PepsiCo, scalability, MENA relevance, and breakthrough potential.”
Willemsen added that PepsiCo received over 70 applications from across the MENA region, with the final Top 10 finallists hailing from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. Amongst these were Al Tabeeah (using compostable materials such as Areca leaves and Sal leaves to make packaging), Cycled Technologies (AI-powered SmartBin for recycling sorting), Okeanos (using calcium carbonate tech to reduce plastic content in packaging) and more.
When asked whether the Greenhouse Accelerator programme would be brought to the Asia Pacific any time in the near future, Willemsen remained coy on exact dates but highlighted that the programme is meant to have a global reach.
“The accelerator programme was first launched in Europe in 2017 and has run for five editions, this is the first MENA one [and] we expect to expand the Greenhouse Accelerator by reviewing more companies in the future across regions and countries while also continuing to support its previous participants,” he said.
“We recognize that [sustainability] is a global issue that requires participants from across the globe [and is not limited to in any one region].”
Working with consumers and government in the Middle East
In addition to searching for new sustainable technologies to improve sustainable production, Willemsen highlighted that PepsiCo’s wide consumer reach due to its many popular and well-accepted food and beverage brands ranging from Pepsi to Lay’s makes it even more crucial for sustainability to be a message that disseminated to consumers beyond just the company itself making greener changes.
“As one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, we know we have an important role to play in helping build a circular and inclusive value chain that inspires people to make choices that are positive for the planet,” he said.
“PepsiCo operates in more than 200 countries and sources crops from over seven million acres, so we have an opportunity and a responsibility to use our size and scale to help build a more sustainable food system – this is no different in MENA.
“Apart from being deliberate about reducing our packaging footprint, [we are also] supporting ‘Dubai Can’, a sustainability initiative led by the Crown Prince of Dubai to minimise the global environmental impact by reducing single-use plastic pollution.
“For this, PepsiCo has partnered with Dubai Tourism to provide an innovative platform for drinking water through the Aquafina Water Station, encouraging a culture of refill and reuse across the city.”
The PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator programme is also a public-private collaborative project, as it was launched in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.