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PepsiCo is on a Nutrition Mission

The following article is based on an episode of Outside In, the customer centricity podcast.

When most people think of PepsiCo, nutrition doesn’t often come to mind. The company is on a mission to change that.

“Every part of our company is being touched by nutrition,” says Lisa Mann, PepsiCo president of global nutrition and acting North American CMO, during a conversation for the Outside In podcast. Mann, a food industry veteran who’s held senior positions at Kraft/Mondelez and KIND Healthy Snacks, is focused on growing PepsiCo’s “original wellness portfolio”: Quaker Oats, Tropicana, and Naked Juice. She sees her role as that of a change agent, to ignite a passion for health and wellness amongst the company’s 250k+ employees, and with consumers.

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Her approach is straightforward: go back to basics. “We kind of had forgotten that we’re the original nutritional company,” Mann says of Quaker, PepsiCo’s core nutritional brand, which has been in people’s pantries for more than a century. “We’re introducing nothing new. We’re just doing it right.”

And doing it right means helping consumers with their food rituals – like customizing a warm bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, honey, and flax seed at breakfast time. Or using marketing as an educational tool to help them succeed on the path to achieving greater wellness.

In an industry as crowded and competitive as food and beverage, simplicity is innovation. Mann understands that so many of the foods consumers love today are the ones that are stripped down to their pure essence, even foods on the naughtier side. “If you think about the [food] landscape as, from the left, healthy, to all the way right, indulgent, it’s actually a barbell. And both health and wellness and indulgence are growing. The really interesting part is it’s the same consumer,” she says.

Mann adds, “The difference is we want our indulgence to be pure cacao, 70 percent, clean-ingredient-line ice cream. But the same person also wants clean ingredient line, nutritious-forward food, and an understanding of where the ingredients come from. PepsiCo can deliver on both sides.”

Starting next year, Mann says PepsiCo will “re-credential our core” – no artificial flavors, colors, or ingredients in any of its foods and beverages. The company will take a modern approach to “embracing our nutritious heritage.” That means more transparent communication about what’s in its foods and beverages, and new innovations in the grocery aisle to help consumers understand the natural health benefits of their ingredients.

Mann, who joined PepsiCo less than a year ago, has a track record of delivering breakthrough food brand experiences and making marketing history. Remember Oreo’s famous “you can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the Super Bowl power outage in 2013? She led the team that made it happen.

“That tweet was two years in the making,” Mann explains, admitting that she never thought it would become such a cultural phenomenon. For years, her team had been on a journey to see the world through the eyes of the Oreo consumer – a world of youthful fun, playfulness, and pop culture. Knowing these consumers so intimately gave her team, to whom Mann gives all the credit, total confidence when making a split-second tweet decision. All she had to do was approve it…from the comfort of her living room couch.

It seems as though Mann’s passion for understanding consumers so deeply comes naturally to her. She says insights are the foundation, pointing to one of the best I’ve ever heard – about breakfast.

“We start our day like Gwyneth Paltrow; we’re going to eat clean, and we’re going to stick with it. But as the day progresses, things happen…and sometimes we find that we end our day more like Courtney Love – with our head in the freezer, wrappers on the floor.” I think, in our way, we can all relate to that!

Helping consumers make healthier choices will require food companies to make major changes to their products and messaging. Mann is ready to help lead the transformation for PepsiCo – from soda and snack food company to one of the world’s biggest and best nutrition companies – with employees and consumers by her side.

“I have anointed myself an evangelist, and I’m looking for others to join me on the journey.”

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