Russia continues to lose brands that historically were with the country for the longest periods of time. Today, PepsiCo announced that they stopped production of Pepsi drinks, as well as 7UP and Mountain Dew, in Russia. Taking into account Soviet history, PepsiCo has operated in Russia for more than 60 years and its colas were one of the very few Western products available to Soviet consumers prior to the USSR’s collapse. This marks yet another case of Russia losing the oldest international brands, following cases like Mcdonald’s, Societe Generale, and Adidas.
But there is more context to this news.
First, this case highlights the importance of media and public attention to holding companies accountable. PepsiCo announced suspending sales and production in Russia back in March 2022. Today’s announcement came only after Reuters visited dozens of supermarkets, retailers and gyms in Moscow and beyond and reported on finding cans and bottles of Pepsi with July and August production labels from factories within Russia.
Second, today’s suspension of colas’ production does not mean PepsiCo has left the Russian market completely - the company continues to operate in Russia and sell goods such as milk and other dairy offerings, baby formula, and baby food, claiming to provide essential goods.
At the same time, it is not clear how true these claims about essentiality are. According to B4Ukraine research, using essentiality excuses often tends to be a smokescreen for companies rather than a testament of genuine care for people. The public should not view PepsiCo’s case as an exit and it is important to keep the focus on the company’s further actions and announcements.
PepsiCo is one of the top companies that should leave Russia fully due to the company’s significant economic impact on Russia and the global industry overall. In 2021, Russia was Pepsi’s third-biggest market, after the United States and Mexico. The company received 5% of its revenue (or $4,1 billion) from Russia. PepsiCo also has 19 plants in Russia and last year it was on the list of top-10 highest earning multinationals in the country. According to Ukrainain media Economichna Pravda, PepsiCo paid $810 million in taxes last year to the Russian state budget.
At the same time, PepsiCo should leave Russia so that it lives up to its own words: “War is never an answer, and we join all those calling for a speedy, peaceful resolution.” The quickest route to bring just peace is to defund the Russian economy and ability to wage war against a sovereign neighbor - so, whilst welcoming the decision by PepsiCo to stop producing its famous colas in Russia, the B4Ukraine coalition calls on the company to exit the Russian market entirely.