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Gatorade Goes Organic, Responds to Consumer Demand for Non-GMOs

By Sherrell Dorsey

PepsiCo recently revealed plans to make an organic Gatorade in 2016. Yes, you read that right. As the soda market dwindles and consumers increasingly seek out beverage products with good-for-you ingredients and other health-related attributes, PepsiCo executives are hoping to capitalize on a market trend of non-GMO product sales reaching $800 billion by 2017.

“It’s a consumer interest,” Al Carey, the CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, announced at Beverage Digest’s Future Smarts conference in New York. “I think they’re very interested in non-GMO [genetically modified organisms] and organic, and to the degree you can make it meaningful to the consumer — do it.”

PepsiCo has yet to reveal which ingredients in the sports drink will be reformulated and swapped for organic alternatives. Gatorade, estimated to command 77 percent of the U.S. sports drink market, already includes a variety of natural ingredients and flavors, Fortune reported.

Based on public perception and consumer interest alone, the question we beg to ask is: Is the reformulation of the often celebrity-endorsed, sugary, neon sports drink enough to sway consumer consumption? If you recall, Nabisco attempted a similar stunt in 2007 introducing organic Oreos that ultimately failed in the marketplace. When junk food goes 'organic' -- an adopted term that is shamelessly void of any legally-binding definition in consumer products -- brand perception and public health trends trump fancy marketing campaigns.

Yet, as the second-largest food and beverage company in the world generating more than $66 billion in revenue last year, PepsiCo’s actions are timely and competitive among the host of big food brands that recently committed to banning artificial colors and ingredients in their products, like Kraft, Chipotle, Panera Bread and Campbell Soup Co. There’s no debate that healthy eating trends are increasing globally, with consumers demanding greater transparency and natural ingredients in the products they consume. Obesity has been a long-standing global issue, and as consumers get smarter about their eating habits in a quest to get fit and healthy, they’re also keen on reading and understanding nutrition labels.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for food manufacturers and retailers to lead a healthy movement by providing the products and services that consumers want and need,” said Susan Dunn, executive vice president, Global Professional Services, in Nielsen’s 2015 We Are What We Eat study. “While diet fads come and go over time, innovative, back-to-basics foods that taste good, are easy to prepare and provide healthful benefits will have staying power. The first step is knowing where to put your product development efforts.”

In tandem with its 2016 healthy resolution plans, PepsiCo will also launch a line of non-GMO Tropicana products. Along with healthy brand lines Naked Juice, Pure Leaf Iced Tea, Quaker Real Medleys bars and Smartfood Delight Popcorn, the Tropicana products will be distributed in PepsiCo’s newly-reinvented vending machine called Hello Goodness.

The machine features a digital point-of-sale screen with product nutrition information, suggested healthy food pairing ideas and a cashless payment system. Several thousand units will be placed throughout the U.S. in 2016 in a variety of locations, including select healthcare, recreational, transportation, governmental, workplace and educational facilities.

Whether you like it or not, PepsiCo is working hard to be part of your health and fitness goals in the new year.

Image credit: PepsiCo Newsroom

Sherrell Dorsey headshot

Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.

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