In the Spotlight - PepsiCo
Under the stewardship of chairman and CEO, Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo has so far been able to shrug off the rising costs and economic slowdown that has taken the shine off many beverage and food companies.
One reason for this is its move into less mature markets. Just last week, the drinks giant was given the green light to go ahead with its acquisition of Lebedyansky in Russia. The country's Federal Anti-Trust Service granted PepsiCo's application to buy a 75.53% stake in Lebedyansky's juice business, for US$1.4bn in a deal with The PepsiCo Bottling Group.
Two days later PepsiCo posted a lift in sales and profits for its latest quarter, despite slipping operating profits at its Americas Beverages unit. Net sales rose by 14% to US$10.95bn, operating profit inched up to $2.18bn from $1.96bn, while net profit was up to $1.70bn from $1.56bn in the three-month period.
Nevertheless, Nooyi remains only too aware of the dangers presented by the current economic climate.
These are troubled times for the beverage and food industry. Costs of fuel and energy are spiralling. The price of raw materials, commodities, ingredients and packaging is soaring. Add to this the economic slowdown that has been witnessed in many of the world's largest economies, and it is easy to see how some companies are finding the going tough.
At the Wall Street Journal's Deals and Deal Makers conference last month, Nooyi called on Washington to take action over rising commodity costs.
"There is no bust in prices in sight," Nooyi said. "It is very worrisome, and what really surprises me is that I've not seen anyone in Washington saying this crisis is the biggest we've had. I just don't see the leadership.
Policy makers must "figure out what they're going to do about it" before US consumer spending slows, she said.
As head of a company that controls such brands as Gatorade, Tropicana and Mountain Dew, Nooyi has done extremely well to steer the company through the treacherous waters that are buffeting so many.
Becoming PepsiCo CEO in 2006, having served as CFO and president at the food and beverage giant for eight years, she was recently described as "the most effective female CEO in the US" by New York Times columnist and author Joe Nocera.
He went on to say: "She is tough and smart, but she is also quite charismatic, and a born leader. And she is trying to do something really hard but really important - turn Pepsi into a company less dependent on its core soda business, and transition it to a company that makes food and drinks that are healthier."
Under Nooyi, PepsiCo has indeed responded to the need to remain relevant by further increasing its focus on health and wellness. Product development, reformulation and marketing have all centred on this new emphasis and it is a far cry from PepsiCo's indulgent 1990's portfolio.
Nooyi has seen the elimination of trans-fats in PepsiCo's products through the use of sunflower oil, while sugars have been reduced or eliminated.
A recent report by Credit Suisse cites Nooyi who, speaking recently at an industry event, "argued for how innovation and acquisitions have transformed the portfolio to nearly 45% 'Good for You' or 'Better for You'".
The PepsiCo chief spoke of the need for the food and beverage industry to "deal more proactively with the fact that in some parts of the country, more than half of its consumers are overweight or obese".
With this in mind, the company said last week that it is to join forces with Coca-Cola, Britvic and 22 other companies in the UK, to encourage healthy diets and physical activity in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics and make "a significant and measurable contribution" to fighting obesity in the UK.
Since becoming CEO, Nooyi has also reorganised the group to accommodate international growth. The company's operating units have been divided into PepsiCo International, PepsiCo Americas Foods and PepsiCo Americas Beverages.
And it is this strategy of fostering international growth that has been key in PepsiCo's ability to shrug off a fall in US consumer spending.
In the near-term, it looks certain that through leveraging its brands, increasing its relevance, tapping into key trends and nurturing development in international markets, PepsiCo will successfully buck the economic downturn that has depressed the results of various food and drinks groups.
However, in the longer term Nooyi is perhaps wise to be worried about the constricting economic situation. As she warned the industry conference in New York: "Food prices have gone up and consumer spending is really getting squeezed. Yes, you can pass the costs on to the consumer, but at what point will they stop buying?"
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