PepsiCo partners up to sequence the oat genome

20 Jul 2020

PepsiCo and its partners sequenced the complete oat genome for the first time, only taking four months to complete the process. The data was published on an open source platform for use by other companies looking to develop and improve new oat varieties with better sustainability, taste and nutrition.

PepsiCo partnered with Corteva for its sequencing and analytic technology; the University of North Carolina Charlotte; and the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan to provide oat varieties.

PepsiCo partners up to sequence the oat genome

Although PepsiCo is releasing the genome data to the public, the company, which owns the Quaker Oats brand, plans to use the findings to advance the qualities of its own brand. In a release, the company said it is working toward developing oat varieties with improved disease resistance as well as a smaller requirement for land and other resources. By unraveling the chromosomes of oats, PepsiCo has also given itself the ability to target the development of desirable traits such as fiber and other essential nutrients. While the selective breeding of such traits will not produce results overnight, in the long term, this focus on measured genetic improvement has the potential to create more nutrient-dense and flavorful oat varieties that can increase the appeal of this cereal product.

Oatmeal is a breakfast staple that has been around for generations, but it is also one that has not lost its popularity. Data from Fortune Business Insights noted that the global market for oatmeal is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 4.76% and will reach $3.32 billion by 2026.

While oats remain popular, there has historically been limited funding channeled into the crop for research, which has resulted in limited improvements on the original cereal grain. This stands in stark comparison to other commodity crops like wheat, corn and soy which have had their genomes explored extensively by researches. Thanks to this new research conducted by PepsiCo, it is now known that oats are much more complex than corn or soy and are more akin to wheat, information that will help guide researchers and farmers in their quest to perfect the crop.

Despite its inherent complexities, having a method to manipulate the oat genome to develop heartier oat varieties and differentiated strains has the potential to improve supply chain resilience and have a positive impact on at-risk food systems, according to PepsiCo.

Food Dive reported that the New York-based beverage company does not currently have any plans to work on sequencing the genomes of other commodity crops.

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