PepsiCo Mexico's President on His Company's Core Growth Market

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PepsiConvo-Post.jpgThe president of PepsiCo Mexico, Pedro Padierna is a key figure in the expansion plans for what's already the second largest food and beverage company in the country, with 55,000 associates. You'll be hearing more about him in the coming months and years as Mexico is considered a core growth market for PepsiCo (the umbrella company behind Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Frito-Lay, Pepsi Cola, and other businesses), which already employs nearly 300,000 people worldwide and enjoys net revenues of approximately $60 billion.

Padierna's decisions as leader of PepsiCo Mexico's food businesses (Sabritas, Gamesa-Quaker, Sonric's) will have a significant impact on the country's agricultural market -- and everything (and everyone) that touches it. Consider this: PepsiCo buys more than one out of every five potatoes grown in Mexico and is already the biggest buyer of wheat inside the country.

What do you say when people ask you, "What do you do?"

Operationally I have responsibility for PepsiCo's food business in Mexico, which includes brands such as Sabritas, Gamesa-Quaker, and Sonric's, but I'm also the face of the company on the beverage side. It's ensuring strong business results but also meeting with customers and government officials to see that PepsiCo is represented as a solid citizen.

I'm also head of the Executive Council of Global Enterprises made up of 38 global companies with strong presence in Mexico which together represent 10 percent of the country's GDP and more than 11 percent of exports made in Mexico. We work to position Mexico as a competitive country and attract investments. This provides an important platform for me to present PepsiCo as a public opinion leader and work across industries.

What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on food?

There's a health and wellness trend in Mexico but it doesn't necessarily mean less sugar and fat. In fact, sugar-free beverages make up less than five percent of the market. People feel foods are healthier when they're close to nature. They want to understand how ingredients are grown. Stevia, as a natural zero calorie sweetener for beverages, has received a warm welcome because it comes from a South American plant source. In the case of Quaker, we've seen tremendous brand growth in adding natural, local ingredients like the chia seed to Instant Quaker Oats. It's an ancient grain in Mexico that people know from their mothers and grandmothers.

What's something that most people just don't understand about your area of expertise?

People see the first layer of the company -- delicious products -- but they're often surprised at the impact we have on the economy. We have 55,000 associates and visibility in the most remote corners of the country. We make two million visits to customers every week and reach even the smallest stores that are the livelihood for families. I also try to get people to understand PepsiCo as an agricultural company. We buy 22 percent of all of the potatoes that are produced in Mexico. We're one of the biggest buyers of wheat inside the country. All of our products come from the fields in some way so we have to work very closely with our farmers. PepsiCo's a company that develops jobs and creates wealth that's well distributed within Mexico.

What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the food world?

Sustainability. Consumers want to hear that you're a good steward of the environment almost in the same breath as health and wellness. We've been stepping up our efforts here to tell a more complete story. Mexico is a dry country and water conservation is especially critical in the area of food and beverage production. Through water treatments we now recycle half of the water used in our food plants. In Oaxaca, PepsiCo buys 25 percent of its energy needs from wind farms. We're at the forefront sourcing green energy and at the same time supporting a state facing an economic challenge. When we make a claim, we are very careful to make sure it's viable and work with authorities to gain credibility. This goes for both health and wellness and sustainability. We have to be able to back it up.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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