Marketing Nutrition by Providing Good Information

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“The culture around food, around health and wellness, has changed so much, and we’re seeing people craving more information about the foods they’re putting in their body.”Sadira Furlow, Chief Marketing Officer, PepsiCo North American Nutrition

Sadira Furlow head shot

Sadira Furlow came to PepsiCo for a brand marketing role at Mountain Dew. Since then, she has worked on the company’s water portfolio, and then three and half years ago, she became the chief marketing officer for PepsiCo Nutrition, which includes healthy brands like Tropicana and Quaker. She recently spoke to SheReportsTM about consumers’ growing interest in health and wellness and new ways to market these products by providing them the information they seek.

What brands are in the PepsiCo Nutrition portfolio, and what are your responsibilities as CMO?

Twelve years ago, PepsiCo launched Performance with Purpose, an initiative to deliver sustainable long-term growth while also having a positive influence on society and the environment. The Nutrition portfolio is really about how we’re bringing positive nutrition into people’s diets — things like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It’s a portfolio that includes brands like Quaker, Tropicana and KeVita, and we focus on how we can do a better job of putting nutrition within arm’s reach of more people, particularly in a culture that is shifting to more of a health and wellness focus. Things that fall under my purview for those brands include media, data partnerships, digital, external partnerships and growth innovation. What are the new innovations and products we need to create to meet consumers’ needs within the health and wellness space?

What are the challenges and opportunities in marketing nutrition products in what many people see as a soda-and-chips company?

I’ve had several roles at PepsiCo, and I’ll tell you, being within our Nutrition division has been one of the most exciting. The culture around food, around health and wellness, has changed so much, and we’re seeing people craving more information about the foods they’re putting in their bodies. We’re seeing that in their search behavior, and that has created an opportunity for us to talk about our products in a very different way then we have in the past.

Picture of yogurt, granola and fruit in a jar

A great example of that is Quaker. If you ask pretty much anyone if oatmeal is good for you, they’d say yes, but they may not be able to tell you why. And we’re finding that in today’s culture, consumers really want to know the why. So we shifted our marketing to address that starting last year, providing more information on the functional benefits of oats. It’s a campaign called The Power of the Oat. Here’s what the oat can do within your body. Here’s how it can help you reduce your cholesterol. Here’s how it can help you with digestion. Here’s how it can help you from an energy standpoint. That’s incredibly exciting from a marketing perspective, to be able to talk about functional benefits, while in the past consumers weren’t ready for that or weren’t interested.

The culture around food, around health and wellness, has changed so much, and we’re seeing people craving more information about the foods they’re putting in their bodies.

Is that opportunity to talk about traditional products in different ways something you’re applying across other brands?

People want nutrition to be more convenient. They still want it to taste great. They want it to be more nutritionally advantaged. So functional benefits — what products are doing within the body — are coming across a lot more in our communication. You look at our Naked line, and we can talk about digestive health. Or like KeVita and Tropicana with probiotics. We can provide information. We can help consumers get information that is real, that’s true, that’s backed by research. We can help incorporate it into their lifestyles. Now that you know about the benefits of oats, for example, how do you eat them?

Glass of fresh squeezed orange juice

How much of your business within Nutrition is driven by female consumers?

It’s still a good portion of our business. They’re still the primary shopper. But what’s really exciting is our ability to use data to find more relevant ways to speak to women — and not just women but all of our consumers. One of things that we’ve learned is that heart disease affects women very differently than it does men. And that might then factor into why oatmeal may be a part of her diet versus someone else’s. We can think about what we might do differently from a communication standpoint knowing that piece of information. More broadly, data is helping us do a much better job of reaching the right people in a way that’s going to be relevant to them.

We can help consumers get information that is real, that’s true, that’s backed by research. We can help incorporate it into their lifestyles.

The #SeeHer initiative at the ANA is devoted to improving portrayals of women in advertising. How has that changed your work?

There are a variety of ways that I’ve been able to integrate #SeeHer principles into what we’re doing. A big one is Free the Bid, where we talk about diversity in casting, in supplier diversity, in the story that we’re telling. We’re really interrogating things. OK, I understand that the creative recommendation is to cast a man in this ad, but why? Does it need to be a man? We’re also having a lot more dialogue with our agencies on representation. We’re looking at scope of work (SOW) agreements with agencies and ensuring that each of those SOWs has a diversity clause. And our agencies are signing up and saying, “Yes, we are committed to this as well, and we are going to do our part.”

What do you see as best practices for marketing nutrition products to women?

Through data, we can now understand — and it sounds obvious — that not all females are created equal. And understanding that, we can understand the unique needs of different women. Then we can more authentically tell those stories and service all the people that we want to reach. People care about nutrition in a way that they hadn’t before. You know, I look at The Power of the Oat and now I’m ready for the oat to dethrone kale, or maybe now it’s celery juice as the purest superfood. This is a pretty awesome space to be in right now.

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