Heublein Inc., an international food and beverage company, will pump $180 million over the next five years into business and jobs for blacks as the result of an "economic covenant" to be signed in New York today with a national civil rights group.
The agreement between Heublein and Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) is expected to generate an additional $180 million in revenues for black-owned firms, for a total $360 million benefit, company and PUSH officials said yesterday.
Heublein was one of several companies targeted in PUSH's "economic justice campaign," aimed at getting more jobs, policy-making positions and business franchises for blacks from companies heavily patronized by blacks.
PUSH won a similar, $30 million agreement from the Coca-Cola Co. last Aug. 10 after promoting a nationwide boycott against the soft-drink maker.
There was no boycott of Heublein products, which include Kentucky Fried Chicken and Smirnoff Vodka. The company had a record $2.1 billion in worldwide sales for fiscal 1981, and its domestic sales were $1.6 billion.
Heublein's decision to work out an agreement with PUSH is just "good business," company president Hicks B. Waldron said. "It's good for Heublein. It's good for blacks and other minorities.
"Blacks account for an important part of our domestic sales. We support those who support us," Waldron said in a statement to be released today.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of PUSH, said that blacks have an annual disposable income of $145 billion. But he said in a telephone interview from New York, "For too long, black Americans have been reduced to receiving aid minus trade and to consuming more than they sell or make. We're trying to end that domestic trade deficit. We're trying to use our dollars to fight for more dollars in the private economy."
A Heublein spokesman said yesterday that the company will spend $20 million in black business investments in the first year of the agreement. Some of the money will go to black advertising agencies and other black media to push Heublein products. But a large part of the investment over the five-year period will be used to set up "guaranteed leases" for black businessmen seeking Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises.
"We will also increase our purchases of goods and services" from black suppliers, according to Eric Pierce, a company spokesman.
Pierce said the agreement announced today "does not mean the company is starting from ground zero" in improving its relationships with black customers.
"We have had a number of programs in the past. This is a continuation of those programs," he said.