As consumers increasingly demand more nutritious food and beverages, PepsiCo uses acquisition, investment, innovation and reformulation to enhance the nutritional aspects of brands in snacking (Lay’s, Sun Chips, Stacy’s Sabra), beverage (Pepsi, LifeWTR, KeVita, Aquafina, Izze), breakfast (Quaker Oats) and other categories.
The company has 2025 nutrition targets and applies its own PepsiCo Nutrition Criteria to emphasize positive, better-for-you functional benefits from whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables, dairy, protein and hydration.
The Opening Second Day Keynote Speaker for Prepared Foods’ New Products Conference is Marianne O’Shea, Vice President-Global Nutrition Science.
A 21-year industry veteran, O’Shea earned a BS in Biochemistry from University College, Dublin; and her PhD in Biochemistry / Nutrition from Dublin City University. She worked in nutrition roles for both manufacturers and industry suppliers before joining PepsiCo in 2010 as Director of Global Nutrition.
In advance of Prepared Foods’ New Products Conference Sept. 13-14 in Dallas, PF caught up with O’Shea to quickly discuss a few key topics linking new product development and nutrition.
Prepared Foods: Consumers express growing interest in self-health and wellness, nutritional labels and natural ingredients. These on-trend topics suggest corporate dietitians and those in nutrition science now have a greater say in new product development. How does that work within PepsiCo?
Marianne O’Shea: Around the world, consumers enjoy PepsiCo products more than one billion times a day. With that global scale comes an enormous opportunity and responsibility to provide consumers with products that meet human needs for nutrition and enjoyment and are sustainable. PepsiCo is committed to producing more nutritious foods and beverages and bringing consumers options that are better for people and better for our planet.
Our Health and Nutrition Sciences (H&NS) team—comprised of nutrition experts with a broad range of specialties—has played a big role in driving these efforts over the years. They support the business by interpreting and translating nutrition and sports science, as well as guiding product development and innovation. The teams also monitor, evaluate and conduct nutrition and sports performance research that contributes to the broader body of evidence to advance knowledge in the field.
When it comes to guiding innovation and new product development, the team supports our ability to make evidence-based nutrition recommendations and claims. They also help transform the nutrition profile of existing products through reducing added sugar, sodium and saturated fat. Their efforts and influence on product development have helped PepsiCo expand its product offerings, making nutritious choices more accessible to consumers.
PF: We’ve seen PepsiCo develop and launch Driftwell beverages (for stress relief, relaxation) and more recently, Soulboost (for “lift” or “ease”). What can you tell us about consumer interest in more functional, better-for-you products?
O’Shea: At PepsiCo, we are laser-focused on consumer-centricity and delivering food and beverage innovations that anticipate or respond to emerging consumer needs. Our R&D team is consistently exploring and tracking how our consumers’ everyday experiences are changing, and what this means for their food and beverage consumption, so that we can deliver on consumer preferences.
While health is an enduring trend that we continue to see increased focus on, the pandemic has brought even more attention to the importance of health and wellness—and the demand for products that offer functional benefits continues to increase. As a result, we are seeing a desire for certain benefits such as reduced stress, improved mood, immune health, plant-based or personalized nutrition. These trends indeed are driving innovation across the industry.
PepsiCo has had to be agile and work quickly to deliver innovation in these spaces, introducing new products such as Driftwell, an enhanced still water beverage that contains L-theanine to promote relaxation, and Propel Immune Support, which contains vitamin C and zinc to support a healthy immune system.
As consumers increasingly demand more nutritious foods and beverages, it is also important that product offerings with positive nutrition—items with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, protein and hydration—are made available to them. We continue to innovate and create products that deliver positive nutrition, while also making many of our products more permissible by reducing added sugars, sodium and saturated fat. In the end, we believe we continue to keep up with evolving consumer tastes and preferences.
PF: It’s fascinating to review those finalists in PepsiCo’s Greenhouse Accelerator program. What’s your opinion as you consider those companies’ new novel ingredients and/or related technologies?
O’Shea: PepsiCo values being at the forefront of innovation and collaboration with emerging brands and companies. The Greenhouse Accelerator program helps us get closer to our consumers, learn from emerging trends in the industry and support entrepreneurs in their growth. Each year, we look to expand the Greenhouse Accelerator program to new focus areas and to different parts of the world.
Since we have seen that COVID-19 has created a new urgency for committing to personal health and there is now a greater acceptance of the role technology can play in our health regimens. The focus for the 2021 program was on finding emerging, disruptive, tech-driven solutions that address consumer needs, such as creative innovations in personalized nutrition and functional foods and supplements.
This year’s program winner was LifeNome, a precision health artificial intelligence company that leverages biological, physiological, and behavioral data to provide science-based recommendations and risk assessments for health and wellness. During their time in the Greenhouse, LifeNome launched 9Moons, a pregnancy nutrition and health companion, which will provide OB-GYN and nutritionist-designed nutrition and health advice from pre-conception all the way to post-delivery.
PF: What can you say about PepsiCo’s own product development reformulation progress with nutritional targets related to sugar, saturated fats, sodium? What are you most proud of in regard to PepsiCo’s work?
O’Shea: As a part of PepsiCo’s “Winning with Purpose” agenda, we aim to offer more nutritious products across our portfolio and continue to work towards reducing added sugars, sodium and saturated fats. We are accomplishing this by finding ways to improve the nutritional profile of our products, making the information on our packaging simpler and clearer and rethinking packaging sizes.
Here are a few highlights of our progress, to date.
*As of 2020, 48% of our beverage portfolio volume in our top 26 beverage markets met our 2025 added sugars reduction target, progress toward our goal of 67% by 2025;
*As of 2020, 64% of our foods portfolio volume in our top 23 foods markets met our 2025 sodium reduction target, progress toward our goal of 75% by 2025
*As of 2020, 71% of our foods portfolio volume in our top 23 foods markets met our 2025 saturated fat reduction target, progress toward our goal of 75% by 2025
We’ve also continued to expand our portfolio of low and no-sugar beverage options for consumers. Zero Sugar Pepsi (also known as Pepsi MMAX and Pepsi Black around the world) had double-digit volume growth in 2020 and is now available in 118 global markets.
I am most proud of our sustainability commitments to reduce added sugars, sat fat or sodium. When we started our journey back in 2006, many consumers were not ready to accept products with lower added sugar, sat fat and sodium levels, and it was an uphill struggle to renovate in a way consumers would accept.
Today, 15 years into the journey, we have made significant progress and learned a lot. If we gave up when the going was tough, we would not have succeeded to the extent we now have and are capable of in the coming years as we continue transforming our business in a way that truly supports consumers.
Learn more about PepsiCo’s Greenhouse Accelerator program.
Learn more about PepsiCo’s “Winning with Purpose” goals.