PepsiCo Foods' CEO on 5 Pandemic-Born Consumer Trends That Are Here to Stay
The growth of local supermarkets, an increase in the use of e-commerce for food and CPG products, and a focus on value were just three of five trends born during the pandemic that are here to stay, at least according to Steven Williams, CEO of PepsiCo Foods. Williams, who oversees all aspects of PepsiCo’s nearly $21 billion snack and convenient foods business in North America, including Frito-Lay North America and Quaker Foods North America, discussed the trends and other topics with Peri Edelstein, managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group, during a keynote session at the 2022 National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City this week. Here's a closer look at the trends Williams discussed:
- A renewed interest in the local supermarket. "The local supermarket became even stronger during the pandemic," Williams said. "Why? These stores are in the community, they're familiar, and they've done an amazing job being resilient. I think consumers have fallen in love with their local stores again, and I think this trend will continue."
- Food e-commerce is here to stay. Williams noted that PepsiCo Foods had been thinking about building a direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform for its products for many years, but the pandemic forced the company to accelerate those plans. A a result, it was able to build a platform, called Snacks.com, in just 40 days. The site "has helped us to get an even deeper understanding of our customers and serve our retail and e-commerce customers as well," said Williams. "E-commerce is here to stay as far as I'm concerned."
- In-home meals will continue. During the pandemic, Williams said PepsiCo Foods learned that "there are a lot more occasions for families to eat meals at home, and we see that trend being sticky as well." In fact, to meet the needs of consumers who want to make meals at home, PepsiCo Foods created Cheetos Mac 'n Cheese last year, which combines products from two PepsiCo divisions, Frito-Lay North America and Quaker Foods North America (which manages Pasta Roni). The product has been a big success, Williams said.
- Value is even more important. "Given some of the inflation we're seeing in the market, value has become even more important for consumers," Williams told the audience. "We see it in the choices consumers make and the products consumer buy. We believe this will continue in the near future and beyond."
- An increased interest in multipack products. Multipacks, which include a variety of single-serve packages in one pack, did very well for PepsiCo Foods since the pandemic began, and it will likely continue to be a bright spot in its product assortment. "We've seen a big shift from multiserve to multipack," noted Williams. "When we asked consumers why they're choosing this type of product, they said because of variety, portion control, and it's easier — and safer — to put the bags in one big bowl vs. having people reach for snacks with their hands."