PepsiCo Leans Into Healthier Potato Chips, Soda

Instead of prioritizing better-for-you options like hummus, the company is making chips and soda healthier.

April 25, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Wall Street Journal reports that Ramon Laguarta, CEO of PepsiCo, said the company has been rejiggering its snacks and drinks to remove more fat, salt and sugar without a noticeable change in taste.

“For years, PepsiCo Inc. tried to … shift its business toward hummus, yogurt, kombucha, vegetable crisps and fruit-and-nut bars,” the Journal reports. Making PepsiCo’s staple foods healthier represents a strategy shift.

Laguarta’s team has been experimenting with different flavor combinations and ways to lower the unhealthier aspects of the foods people love to eat. To that end, he’s upped the annual marketing budget, enlarged the energy drink line, increased research-and-development and developed new manufacturing lines for salty snacks.

He pointed to how the company has successfully lowered sugar in Pepsi. One can of regular Pepsi in the US has 9.4 teaspoons of sugar. But in more than 12 countries, including Mexico and France, the formulation has evolved towards lower sugar, and a can has 6.4 teaspoons. Later this year, UK’s version will clock in at 3.7 teaspoons of sugar. “That’s a massive change to the amount of sugar that gets consumed in the world,” he said.

Under Laguarta, who became CEO in 2018, the company’s annual revenue jumped 34%. He emphasized bigger budgets and risk-taking to boost sales. “Brands don’t just stay large,” said Steven Williams, who leads PepsiCo’s North America foods businesses. “Frankly, we had not kept pace with brand building. Our innovation was lacking.”

By 2025, the company wants 67% of its drinks volume to have 100 calories or less from added sugars per 12 ounces and for 75% of its food volume to contain 1.3 milligrams or less of salt per calorie.

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