A year and a half after John Boyd Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, pressured PepsiCo to work more often with Black farmers, he has accused the food and beverage giant of being “all talk” with no concrete follow-through since then. Boyd specifically pointed to a potato contract that has not materialized following what he called a “verbal commitment” from PepsiCo.
“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,” Boyd, a farmer from Mecklenberg County, Virginia, said in a new release on Thursday. “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.”
At the same time that Aunt Jemima products were rebranded, PepsiCo announced a $400 million pledge toward furthering diversity and equality across the supply chain, including agriculture. According to reports from Forbes.com, PepsiCo Chief Sustainability Officer Simon Lowden said in June 2020 that the company more than doubled its spend with Black-owned suppliers. It has also joined the National Black Growers Council, serving on its Advisory Board and as a sustaining member.
But Boyd said that there are still shortcomings. According to Boyd, as PepsiCo indicated it wanted to do business with NBFA members, the company insisted that our growers share personal information through the association’s 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,” he said, calling the move “appalling.”
“PepsiCo had decided to ‘move in a new direction’ that would not include NBFA black farmer members,” Boyd said he was told by the company.
AGDAILY’s contact at Edelman, PepsiCo’s longtime PR/communications agency, has left the company, and emails to her are now undeliverable. A message was sent to Edelman through social media seeking comment on PepsiCo’s behalf.
The National Black Farmers Association‘s “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,” Boyd said. “Some Black famers have actually lost their farms amid this unethical and inhumane treatment.”
He said that the NBFA is seeking legal counsel regarding PepsiCo’s involvement in the potato contract.
Over the past year, PepsiCo has said that diversity issues are central to the sustainability of its product lines and the broader food system.
“Bolstering underserved populations is essential to making the entire food system stronger, and PepsiCo’s goal is to improve the livelihoods of more than 250,000 people in agricultural communities, with a major focus on economically empowering women,” PepsiCo said in a blog post last April. “Partnerships with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Inter-American Development Bank, and CARE’s She Feeds the World program are providing support for female farmers in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Boyd has long been a major national advocate for Black farmers and has fought to correct systemic racism in organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In his news release, Boyd said he is a shareholder of PepsiCo and hopes that Chief Executive Officer Ramon Laguarta will meet with NBFA leaders to talk about this sticking point over the potato contract.