As cola companies prepare to meet the rising health consciousness of consumers, PepsiCo India has signed on Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna to make its portfolio healthier and tastier. Khanna, who has already worked on Pepsi’s juice brand, Tropicana, will for the moment focus on its Quaker brand of oats.
For this, Khanna will hold events in different cities where he will invite people to present their tastiest bowl of oats. In scale and ambition, these events will look to rival Masterchef India, which has Khanna as a judge. After oats, he will move to other products in PepsiCo India’s portfolio.
Cola companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola have been under pressure from health activists as well as consumers. The high sugar and calorie content in some of their drinks has become a turn-off for many consumers who have become more conscious of their lifestyle choices. This has made companies promote their ‘diet’ variants (Coca-Cola also has Coke Zero), energy drinks, water, and juices.
The contract Pepsi has signed with Khanna is for two years. The chef’s face is not likely to appear on the packaging because, as a Pepsi India spokesperson pointed out in good humour, Quaker Oats already has a 139-year-old man on it. Khanna, a thin man with a thin face and luxuriant black hair, is hardly ready to take his place.
At an event for bloggers in Mumbai on Sunday, Khanna said oats was like water, blending with other things and acquiring their flavour and taste. This offered immense scope to work on it.
Pepsi, said its spokesperson, thought Khanna was a good fit not only for being a redoubtable chef but also because of his work with the Smile Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides education and nutrition to children. Khanna is campaigning to raise $1 million for the foundation.