PepsiCo: “The Mighty Oat Can Play a Big Role in Nutrition”

To further develop an understanding of the oat genome for use in open-source applications, PepsiCo has started working with researchers in academia, believing it can unlock gains in the fields of health and sustainability.

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

Now, in partnership with La Trobe University, an annotated oat transcriptome has also been released. This helps provide insight into the specific segments of the genome code for genes, and what characteristics those genes code for.

A PepsiCo oat farmer in his field surrounded by wide wildflower borders - part of his sustainability efforts. Source: Quaker Oats

“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,” explained Denise Lefebvre, Senior Vice President Global Foods R&D at PepsiCo.

As a crop, oat already performs well on a number of sustainability metrics in the agricultural system, for example, oat cultivation is very helpful for soil health. Lefebvre suggested, however, that within the context of increasing pressure on the food system form climate change and a growing population there is room for improvement.

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

PepsiCo believes the tapping into these opportunities will help it deliver its PepsiCo+ commitments, which include a transition toward regenerative agriculture systems, the company also believes it can access benefits in the field of nutrition through this approach.

A field supplying Quaker UK oats. Source: Quaker Oats

The company hopes that the developments PepsiCo and its partners have made in identifying and mapping the genome will act as an accelerator fo the development of varieties that deliver sustainable nutrition.

To this end, PepsiCo is actively involved in plant breeding and the development of cutting-edge crop science. This work is hoped to offer benefits to oat brands like Quaker, who see potential in product development and consumer communications opportunities.

“We believe collaboration is a much more powerful way to move the agricultural system,” noted Lefebvre.

“We opened the genome publicly because we can accelerate nutrition innovation globally. We believe the mighty oat can play a big role in nutrition in the future, bringing benefits for the public and the planet.”