PepsiCo’s Matheson Shares Six Keys To Meeting Consumer Needs


Chicago — In a world of dynamic and rapid change, engagement and authenticity with consumers have never been more important. At the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo, during a session titled The Art and Science of Snacking Innovation, show attendees learned the latest insights and trends shaping food and snack culture today from the Frito Lay and Quaker brands. 

Economic and social changes as well as environmental impact are all influencing consumer choices and the pace of all these changes can leave customers feeling unsettled. 

“It’s no surprise that consumers are the heart and soul of a company,” Kathryn Matheson, senior director of R&D, PepsiCo said. “They are complex and evolving but it’s important to stay close to them and their hearts.”

Focusing on this shifting consumer landscape, Matheson went on to point out six key areas where companies can meet their consumers’ needs.

Calling them Joyful Moments, Matheson said post-pandemic shopping habits have changed. While new and exciting innovations can drive growth, consumers are also looking for comfort and nostalgia, she pointed out. 

“A joyful moment doesn’t have to be anything big but it does need to provide an elevated experience,” she said. 

This doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t looking for innovation, she said, referring to experimenting with new flavors, textures and forms, which can spark interest and create that twist customers are looking for.

Citing the Home Is A Hub trend, she told attendees that 30 percent of consumers enjoy cooking and 27 percent host parties. 

As a result, she explained that companies should be paying attention to current culinary innovations as well as cultural trends that can target those demographics and make it easier for consumers to accomplish easy entertaining. 

For the third area, which she called Whole Health, Matheson explained that wellness has become about more than just physical health. 

“Consumers today are looking for products that will target all of their health needs including physical, mental and spiritual,” she said. 

Wellness overall has become more all-encompassing and personal. Today, 76 percent of consumers believe the products they consume and the benefits they have need to be tailored just for them, she told attendees. 

In talking about Conscious Living, Matheson noted that 70 percent of consumers want to be sustainable but don’t necessarily know how. She added that 68 percent of shoppers believe food and beverage play a direct role in improving overall sustainability and 55 percent say they choose a brand based on its sustainability efforts. 

Matheson admitted that Value Beyond Price is a complex equation. “At the foundation of all brand decisions should be quality,” she said. “If there is no quality you won’t get repurchased.” 

She rounded out the presentation with her sixth key area, “Always On” Screen-Based Shopping, Matheson said that this results in seeking shopping habits through the phone. 

“To reach wider audiences, brands need to become more disciplined with marketing,” Matheson said. “Whether they’re using specific apps or participating in certain trends, companies need to be meeting consumers where they are and where they want to be.”