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PepsiCo Searches for Potato Chip of the Future

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What will the potato chip of the future look and taste like? PepsiCo aims to find out. The food and beverage giant announced this week that it is opening a new long-term research laboratory next to the Yale campus in New Haven, Conn.

The facility will employ eight to 10 scientists with backgrounds ranging from sensory to biochemistry. Their goal: To create healthier foods and beverages.

“We felt we needed to expand,” said Gregory Yep, global vice president of research and development, long-term research. “We’ve built this long-term research lab to understand the diet and nutritional needs of consumers around the world.” The lab is PepsiCo’s ninth such global facility.

Pepsi has boosted its outlay for research and development by 40 percent in the past three years. “We’re investing in natural products research . . . different fruits, vegetables and botanicals around the world,” said Yep. “We’re looking at what nature has to give us and improving product lines.”

Using different ingredients and technologies, the plan is to create a pipeline of new healthier products as well as to re-imagine some old ones. “What will products look like in five years? Beverages could look, feel and taste differently. What will the potato chip of the future look like? It’s definitely not fried," Yep said. "Utilizing baking technology, you want it to have the right texture and flavor. How do you do that with [healthier] oils, no sodium or low sodium and low fat? We’re definitely getting there. I’ve tasted prototypes.”

Yep noted that the lab is also looking at different formats in cereal bars, ways for the Quaker line to really take advantage of oats, as well as the areas of protein and fiber.

The new lab is also partnering with Yale to fund a graduate fellowship at its School of Medicine that will support nutritional science research.