How the pandemic caused PepsiCo to create Cheetos Mac ‘N Cheese

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Eight years ago, PepsiCo believed that design applied primarily to highly technical products, not consumer packaged products.

But then the food and drink giant hired Mauro porcini, the company’s first design director. “It was an educational experience for us to have someone like Mauro explain what design can do,” said Ram Krishnan, PepsiCo’s global sales director, speaking Tuesday at FortuneThe virtual event “Resilience by Design: Driving Business Transformation”.

Porcini’s rise to PepsiCo is part of a wider recognition in American businesses of the value of design and the rise of design directors to leadership positions.

Poricini says it’s the role of designers to behave almost like anthropologists and look at what’s going on in the world in order to identify opportunities from frustrations, desires and dreams.

When the pandemic hit, he said, “We had to be there to really understand what was going on.” The problem, he adds, was the level of uncertainty over the short, medium and long term.

The company used typical design thinking methodologies trying to understand people’s response to the pandemic, thinking about how the company should react in the context of its portfolio and industry, and then prototype solutions. .

For example, Porcini mentions the launch of Cheetos Mac ‘n Cheese– what he calls a “celebration of comfort food” – and Driftwell, which aims to help consumers relax.

Last year, PepsiCo developed a new corporate structure that integrates all of its business functions – design as well as marketing, sales, e-commerce and research and development – under a team that reports to Krishnan in a newly created role.

“It has accelerated the role of design within PepsiCo, moving from a simple search for aesthetics to a search for a true consumer experience,” he says. The new structure also reduced the speed to market for new products by 30%, he says.

The way PepsiCo has embraced design across the company is exemplified by how it now views budgeting, which Krishnan says is one of the biggest fundamental changes. Rather than asking Porcini for funding, “it’s now every function that wants to fund design because they see the designer side of impact, as well as the business unit,” says Krishnan.

Porcini says that since 2014 the company measures the ROI of design: “This has been a major catalyst to show that we should create a design function in-house because it can move with greater agility, better quality at a lower cost. . “

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