Former PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi, who stepped down as CEO last year, was instrumental in shifting company’s focus from sugary beverages to healthier options. But it wasn’t always an easy task for the former CEO.
Speaking at Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women International Summit recently, Nooyi recalled how she met with a lot of resistance not only from the investors and fund managers but also from the customers themselves. “Imagine taking Lay’s potato chips which is a salty potato, and reducing the salt,” she said.
To tackle this, the company reduced the salt levels a little bit every few weeks so that customers wouldn’t notice the shift in taste. Today, the Lay’s potato chip has 20% less salt than it did in 2006, according to Nooyi.
The strategy of ‘sneaking in healthiness’ seemed to work well for PepsiCo. Nooyi recalled another incident where customers were up in arms because the chips were being fried in heart-healthy oil and how the company tackled it.
“Lay’s chips get fried in HOSO – High Oleic Sunflower Oil – which is a heart-healthy oil. It cost a lot of money for us to do that,” she said.
“We put a big sunflower on the bag and we were so proud of making the transition. (But) The consumer complaints just went through the roof and sales plummeted because they said it tastes awful. So the next day, we took off the sunflower from the bag and people said, ‘Thank God, it tastes the same.’ (But) It’s still fried in HOSO. I was not backing off from the healthy part.”