Beyoncé, Britney … Milburn? Ex-minister takes Pepsi challenge
· Former health secretary paid to advise cola giant
· £25,000 a year to help build healthier image
Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent
Wednesday May 30, 2007
The company has used some of the biggest names in showbiz to enhance the brand: Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Madonna have all been hired by to push PepsiCo sales at a time of concern over the effects of junk food.
A less well-known name, but perhaps no less surprising, has now been added to the pantheon.
The former health secretary and arch-Blairite Alan Milburn has taken up a new job as an adviser to the American company to help it fight the backlash against unhealthy snacks and build a more acceptable image and product range.
In the latest example of the flight of former government ministers to the lucrative corporate world, Mr Milburn has a seat on the new nutritional advisory board set up by the UK arm of the company, alongside Tony Blair’s one-time polling and image guru Philip Gould.
The firm said it hoped Mr Milburn’s ministerial past track record would be “of enormous value”.
It is a record that has involved strident attacks on the junk food industry, including a claim that the worst health problem facing the world is not the Aids epidemic but chronic illness caused by processed food such as crisps and fizzy drinks.
Shortly after he resigned, he called on ministers to ban snack-food vending machines from schools.
Mr Milburn, the Labour MP for Darlington, was health secretary from 1999 to 2003 before stepping down for family reasons.
Under Labour he served first as a health minister, then as chief secretary to the Treasury.
He will be paid £25,000 a year to attend a handful of meetings and offer advice on health, nutrition and the company’s “strategic direction”.
PepsiCo’s best-selling brands include Walkers Crisps, Pepsi, PJ Smoothies, Quaker and Tropicana juices.
Its UK and Ireland business employs around 5,000 people, while internationally the company has brands in more than 200 countries.
The decision to set up a UK advisory board is in recognition of the challenges facing companies which make a huge profit from “unhealthy” food, with the threat of a battery of new regulations and restrictions on the way they advertise and sell their products. It follows the precedent taken by its US parent company. …
Reported earnings [from Pepsi]:
In his spin doctoring in his new job, Milburn will probably avoid mentioning the present problematic state of health of his fellow Pepsi promoter Britney Spears …