For Pepsi, “Guilt-Free” Means Diet Soda And Baked Chips

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Like many other food companies these days, PepsiCo is trying to figure out how to appeal to consumers who have shifted toward healthier products. But while Pepsi is touting higher global sales, with 45% of the company’s revenue coming from “guilt-free” products — what exactly does that term mean?

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi made the comment yesterday on a call with analysts in reporting the company’s uptick in sales, providing yet another example of how ambiguous such terms can be.

“This broader definition includes the everyday nutrition products plus diet beverages and other beverages with fewer than 70 calories per 12 ounce and snacks with low levels of sodium and saturated fat,” said Nooyi, as well as items with “positive ingredients,” like grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So if you apply that definition, Baked Lay’s and Diet Mountain Dew are guilt-free, The Associated Press notes as examples, as is a Quaker “breakfast cookie,” at 180 calories, 6 grams of fat and 14 grams of sugar.

As the AP points out, Pepsi doesn’t slap that wording on any of these products’ labels, of course, but the fact that the company sees them that way says a lot about how they’re marketing those items.

If you’re confused by similar phrases like “healthy” and “natural,” you’re not alone: Last year, the Food and Drug Administration said it would rethink its requirements for what it takes to market a product as “healthy,” while advocates and lawmakers are pushing the agency to define “natural” in a way that more people would understand.

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