John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), recently called out Pepsico for “continued discrimination” after a year and half of “all talk and no contract” following a verbal commitment, and following PepsiCo’s announcement that it will no longer use the Aunt Jemima brand, long criticized as a racial stereotype, to sell pancake mix and syrup.
Here is Boyd’s statement:
PepsiCo, the giant food and beverage company, seems to value a positive public image less than profitability. Most recently it has added dismissive treatment of Black farmers to a long list of complaints about its negative environmental impacts (deforestation and pesticide use) exploitation of water resources and global plastic pollution, according to a Wikipedia report.
In addition, PepsiCo, which was created in 1965 by Pepsi’s merging with the Frito-Lay brand, not only has been repeatedly criticized by environmentalists. Public health advocates have complained about its high-calorie, poor nutrition products along with other snack and drink companies. In 2019, a Johns Hopkins University student group dedicated to food sustainability and human ethics protested the campus dining office’s contract with PepsiCo, calling on that unit to reject “socially and ecologically unsustainable practices of profit-hungry corporations.”
Yet, the multi-billion-dollar leader in its category seems to regard social responsibility, and health standards and environmental concerns as optional values. It has vowed to uphold commitments to those issues, but has declined to release public information documenting progress on changing company practices. Although Coca-Cola, its main competitor, has bigger sales, PepsiCo within the North American market is the largest food and beverage company by net revenue ($70 Billion income reported in 2020).
NBFA raised concerns over the gargantuan company’s failure to contract with members of the NBFA to provide agricultural products that form the foundation of their firm’s processes. Only White farmers have been afforded the opportunity to share in PepsiCo’s enormous profits. It prefers the superficial responses to public opinion such as changing the brand image of its stereotyped figure Aunt Jemima. PepsiCo immediately reached out to the NBFA on June 19th 2020 in the face of such controversy.
However, as PepsiCo indicated they wanted to do business with NBFA members, the company insisted that our growers share personal information through our national data base. A year and a half later, when NBFA growers met all the required elements for a potato delivery contract, the company’s executives apparently had lost interest in keeping its part of the bargain.
In an appalling stunt, PepsiCo executives recently notified the President of the NBFA that it would not be moving forward with any contracts for NBFA members.
“PepsiCo had decided to ‘move in a new direction’ that would not include NBFA black farmer members,” we were told.
Our outrage at this kind of bullying discrimination is not just about hurt feelings. Our livelihood and financial stability is at stake when we encounter such blatantly low-level business practices. Some Black famers have actually lost their farms amid this unethical and inhumane treatment. The NBFA is seeking legal counsel regarding PepsiCo’s verbal commitment for a potato contract.
As a shareholder of the PepsiCo Corporation, I am calling on PepsiCo Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ramon Laguarta to meet with NBFA leaders and respond to the hardship and realities his company’s latest recent discriminatory act has caused.