“The right stuff: ensuring nutritious food and beverages are within reach”
Seth is also Nutrition Chair of Beverage Marketing Association, overseeing how we address nutrition as an industry. Join your peers this fall at eBev as we uncover profound truths about the future of beverage marketing.
Seth…it is truly an honor to have you with us today sharing your paradigm on the role of PepsiCo in shaping the people, communities, and world around us. Thank you so much for being with us today!
Thank you, Seth. Happy to be here.
Before we go any further, as someone who is charged with leading nutrition for one of the world’s largest providers of food and beverage…I’d love to know what motivates you. What do you wake up and get excited about?
For me, nutrition is not just professional, it’s personal. As a child I struggled with ongoing illness – in and out of the hospital, constantly dealing with infections — that went unexplained until I was in my mid-30s when I was diagnosed with primary immune deficiency. As a result of that, in addition to receiving weekly treatment for my primary immune deficiency, I also quickly learned the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle – that means getting plenty of sleep, exercising – I’m obsessed with cycling — surrounding myself with positive relationships and eating and drinking the right things. I became super passionate about treating myself well and feel fortunate that in the role I’m in and with the platform I have at one of the world’s largest companies, I have the opportunity to pay it forward to others.
Wow, thank you for sharing your personal struggle. It’s amazing that you’ve come full circle in life and are now are using the platform you have to “spread the health”
So now if you don’t mind, I’d like to dive right in!
Late in 2016, Indra Nooyi announced that PepsiCo would be doubling-down on ten years of “Performance with a Purpose,” making product nutrition one of three pillars of the company-wide transformation aimed at “doing well by doing good.” Not surprisingly, you also made the move from CMO to President of North America Nutrition shortly thereafter. In your time in that role and with a company focus on nutrition, what initiatives are you most proud of, and where would you like to accelerate change?
I’m really excited about what we’re doing with North America Nutrition (NAN), which was created to put a focus on our portfolio of trusted nutrition brands – including Quaker, Tropicana, Naked and KeVita – and underscore the Performance With Purpose agenda as it relates to transforming our portfolio in a way that helps people eat better every day. We’ve already had what I would consider some big wins in progressing against this vision — I’ll share three of them with you:
- First, we’re helping more people access the benefits of the oat. We’ve launched successful innovation like our Overnight Oats, have a full innovation pipeline, and we’ve developed a new marketing campaign and model focused on the functional benefits of the oat.
- Second, we’re innovating in ways that can help people get more servings of fruits and vegetables. For the first time in Naked’s 35-year-history, we’ve taken a “fruit and vegetable smoothie” brand and turned it into a convenient fruit and vegetable platform with the introduction of its first non-beverage innovation: a chilled fruit and vegetable bar that is still new to market. ·
- Third, we’re growing our portfolio. A little more than a year ago we acquired KeVita. When you combine a leader in fermented drinks with the distribution network of PepsiCo, you can quickly help people to get access to the probiotic benefits of a great tasting beverage. It’s been fun working with and learning from that team.
Moving forward we’re focused a lot on our internal culture and infusing more agility into the way we work so that we can affect change even more quickly and keep pace in an industry seemingly moving at warp speed.
That’s some serious progress! Kudos!
When I think the importance of nutrition and its role in society, there are two potential barriers to a healthier population that come to mind: access and intent. Lets start by talking about access. Part of addressing the access gap has to do with filling stores with the right products, and still another part comes down to the cost part of this equation. This seems to be a pillar of your work at PepsiCo – can you tell me how you’re tackling the issue of ensuring that everyone has access to clean, healthy food and drinks?
You’re spot on relative to the barriers and that’s where the opportunity lies for PepsiCo NAN. We are uniquely positioned to address them. Our mission is to make sure that trusted nutrition choices are always within reach for every single person in North America. Here’s what I mean by that:
First, it’s about trust. As more people seek functional foods, it’s critical they can trust that what they are buying safely delivers the benefits they seek. We have the experts and expertise to do this and in a way that still delivers on taste without compromising on quality. Most importantly, our nutrition claims are backed by science and vetted through the strictest of standards.
Next, it’s about choice. We are enhancing the portfolio of today while working to build the portfolio of tomorrow. We have identified key trends that we feel reflect growing consumer priorities – things like plant-based and functional foods and are using them as our guide for how we evolve.
Third, this is about accessibility. With PepsiCo, we have the power of a world-class selling and distribution network that helps get our products into more points of access, which is important given the growing number of consumers who seek/need healthy options. An example of this is expanding our footprint into “small format,” convenience stores. Mintel reports that three in ten consumers say more healthful options at convenience stores would motivate them to visit c-stores more often (Mintel’s Convenience Store Foodservice, US March 2018).
“Mintel reports that three in ten consumers say more healthful options at convenience stores would motivate them to visit c-stores more often (Mintel’s Convenience Store Foodservice, US March 2018).” – that’s pretty eye-opening!
What about the other side of this coin: intent. I think we’re going in the right direction here (and the interest in healthy convenience store options you shared suggests the same)…but how can we best encourage people to make the choices that are best for them? Education is clearly part of the puzzle…What else can we do to sway opinions? I mean, we are marketers and communicators after all. Can we brand/communicate healthy food & drinks in a way that’s more appealing or exciting?
From my perspective there are two key things to keep in mind. We want to ensure we are communicating about our nutrition brands differently. We are working hard to target the right messages to the right consumers in the right places and across the full breadth of places they’re getting their information. A recent example is the most recent Quaker campaign which was focused on conveying three key benefits of the oat in energy, digestive health and heart health. It’s been quite some time since we’ve focused our message around a functional benefit and we’re delivering it in places where it makes sense such as doctors’ offices and via nutrition outlets.
The other thing – never underestimate the value of taste. Nutrition can – and should! – taste good and we work hard to deliver a taste experience that people have come to expect from all of the brands within PepsiCo. You can tell people all you want that something is good for them, but if it doesn’t taste good, you risk losing them.
You’re right, I totally left out what we can do with the products themselves…make sure they taste great! While it sounds intuitive, there is great wisdom in that notion of yours.
At eBev, we’re always interested in where emerging technology can help us achieve our goals – whether we’re talking about getting liquid to lips, saving the planet, or anything in between. How do you see technology impacting your team’s work at PepsiCo NAN over the next 5-10 years? Is there anything transformative coming down the pipeline that we should be getting excited about?
We talk about how quickly the food industry is evolving but technology is an entirely other beast and frankly it blows my mind how fast things change. There is nothing in particular that I would point to but would say that we absolutely have our eye on where technology can help us – whether in the product development process, enabling access of our foods to more people in more places or in how we share more aspects of our story and intersect with consumers, who we know are connected at all times. It’s awesome to think about how far things have come since I first started at PepsiCo almost 17 years ago and I’m excited to see where things go from here.
And you humbly say that as if you were a bystander 🙂 …Your contributions over the last two decades have been pretty darn impactful! Between your work on the Starbucks partnership, and your leadership as CMO, PepsiCo is lucky to have such a visionary leader committed to their most important mission.
Seth, I can’t thank you enough for doing this interview. I am SO excited by what you’re doing at PepsiCo. You have the right values, right mission, and right vision…so it’s no surprise to us here at BMA that you’ve achieved as much as you have since taking this on only 18 months ago!
Thank you, Seth, for this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure!
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