Home Lifestyle Receipes PepsiCo sees oat genome unlocking gains for nutrition and sustainability: ‘The mighty oat can play a big role in nutrition’

PepsiCo sees oat genome unlocking gains for nutrition and sustainability: ‘The mighty oat can play a big role in nutrition’

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PepsiCo sees oat genome unlocking gains for nutrition and sustainability: ‘The mighty oat can play a big role in nutrition’

In 2020, PepsiCo unveiled the first-ever full sequencing of the oat genome. The genome sequence of oat was released publicly in collaboration with Corteva Agriscience. This is to promote oat research. Since then, the data has been accessed more than 5,000 times.

A transcriptome annotated for oats has been published in collaboration with La Trobe University. It provides insight into which genes are coded for what segments in the genome.

“The work we are doing with La Trobe University recently on the transcriptome helps us identify what the opportunity set is, because we can see those genes, find them,” Denise Lefebvre, Senior Vice President Global Foods R&D at PepsiCo, explained.

So what opportunities does the latest update uncover?

Lefebvre said to FoodNavigator, that PepsiCo believes there is potential for positive impacts on both nutrition and sustainable agriculture. “It was a fundamental unlock to have the genetic pool in front of us so we could help identify and breed traits that would deliver sustainable agriculture and better nutrition.”

Tapping the ‘mighty oat’: Sustainable agriculture and enhanced nutrition

As a crop, the ‘mighty oat’ already performs well on a number of sustainability metrics in the agricultural system. We were informed that oat cultivation was very beneficial to soil health.

Lefebvre said that there are opportunities for improvement in the face of climate change-related pressures on food systems and an increasing population.

“We think the biggest opportunities pertaining to the oat are disease resistance, drought resistance and reduced water usage on that crop,” she indicated.

A PepsiCo oat farmer in his field surrounded by wide, wildflower borders, part of his sustainability efforts Pic Quaker

A PepsiCo oat farmer in his field surrounded by wide, wildflower borders, part of his sustainability efforts / Pic: Quaker

PepsiCo believes that tapping into these opportunities will help it deliver on its PepsiCo+ commitments, which include a transition towards regenerative agriculture systems. We believe that the oat needs to have drought and disease resistance to thrive. They should use less water. These are essential elements for sustainable agricultural practices in the future and part of our PepsiCo+ engagements ….. It is, however, better for the world ,” said the R&D vice president of the company.

This approach offers a boost in sustainable agriculture by crop science and PepsiCo hopes to gain nutritional benefits through it.

“One of the things about the oat is, it’s mighty. You can feel its power. Beta glucan is found in it for your heart, extra fiber, and protein ,” Lefebvre have been observed.

” Many Quaker products talk about heart health. We also offer high levels of protein which is what we believe consumers want and that provides satiating. Oats can provide long-lasting energy due to their high satiating element. They are high in fiber, which is a vital nutritional component for all people. Additional fibre in their diet .” PepsiCo is focused primarily on increasing the beta glucan and protein content, and maintaining consistent yields. “There is more to the benefit of ,” Lefebvre.

Genome mapping will accelerate crop science

The advances PepsiCo and its partners have made in identifying and mapping the genome will act as an accelerator for the development of oat varieties that deliver sustainable nutrition, the company hopes. To achieve this goal, PepsiCo actively participates in crop breeding and cutting-edge crop science.

“We actively work in breeding in a facility where we study and breed different oats. According to our sources, we also collaborate with milling organizations and farmers in different ways .

To date, this focus has been on traditional crop breeding. PepsiCo claims that understanding the genome can greatly accelerate the process. “We can think of traditional breeding methods without the gnome sequencings. There are many ways you could try to get the best result… We believe that the genome sequence will make it much easier and faster to breed, which will have a greater knock-on effect for sustainability and nutrition ,” Ledebvre stated.

The company does not experiment in so-called “new” plant breeding methods. The company isn’t interested in genetic modification. However, developments to gene editing tools such as CRISPR (which can remove genetic material but not add new codes) are being closely monitored.

“There are opportunities for CRISPR that we need to understand a lot more, it is a very intriguing area… We are very focused on traditional breeding practices. Although CRISPR technology cannot be genetically altered, we must understand it and continue to study.

“You really have to listen and learn to understand the benefits. To understand the point of view of consumers, we must also listen. It is important to remain open-minded and adhere to science. We must also follow the needs of our customers. When we feel like there is good intersection of the two, that is a very exciting area.”

A field supplying Quaker UK oats Pic Quaker

A field supplying Quaker UK oats / Pic Quaker

Collaboration is a ‘powerful’ way to move the system

The work that PepsiCo is doing to improve the quality of the oats it sources could certainly offer some benefits for brands like Quaker, affording product development and consumer communications opportunities. The consumer goods company views the work it does to improve the quality of the oats as being largely competitive.

“We don’t really think about it as holding competitive advantage for PepsiCo. When you create a product, there’s a benefit for the consumer. We believe that the product’s imprint could have broad benefits for everyone.

“When it comes to sustainable technologies, those are things that we think you’ll see a lot of us talking about democratising them and making them available publicly. It takes all of us to make the world a better place .” Indeed. Ledebvre is convinced that the collaboration behind-the scenes in understanding the oat genome was crucial. She insists that progress wouldn’t have been possible if the public and private sectors hadn’t come together.

“We believe collaboration is a much more powerful way to move the agricultural system. The gnome was made public to accelerate global nutrition innovation. We believe the mighty oat can play a big role in nutrition in the future, bringing benefits for the public and planet.”

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