PepsiCo is to combine its food and beverage businesses in India under the same management, as a sign of the country's growing importance to the US firm.

PepsiCo said that the move would result in India being upgraded to "region status".

Management for the newly created PepsiCo India business will oversee teams in both snacks and drinks units, while reporting directly to the group's Asia, Middle East and Africa division, one of the two divisions constituting PepsiCo International.

"This is in line with PepsiCo's global strategy of focusing on high priority emerging markets," said the group this week.

PepsiCo CEO and chairwoman Indra Nooyi announced in September that the group would invest US$500m in India over the next three years. She said the firm planned to triple revenue in the country within five years.

Sanjeev Chadha, chairman of the new India business, said that the merger "will help us unlock greater synergies, and further accelerate the growth in both our businesses". Gautham Mukkavilli, previously managing director of FritoLay India, will be president of the business. 

Emerging markets are increasingly driving growth for both PepsiCo and its arch-rival in soft drinks, Coca-Cola, as market conditions in their North America heartland remain tough.

PepsiCo said on Monday (3 November) that it would spend $1bn in China over the next four years.