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Indra Nooyi

  • Power 50 Ranking: 29
  • Title: Chairman and CEO
  • Company: PepsiCo
  • Key Developments: PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay achieved stronger revenue growth than any major consumer goods company.
  • What's Next: Multibillion-dollar investments in international markets.
Indra Nooyi - Power 50 Profile

What do Lee Scott and a security guard at PepsiCo have in common? Both are mentors that PepsiCo Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi credits with helping pave her way to become what Fortune magazine deems the most powerful woman in business.

“I am what I am today because of mentors,” she told attendees at last month’s CIES World Food Business Summit.

Nooyi’s nimbleness has also played a role. As U.S. consumers moved away from carbonated soft drinks, she launched a massive R&D effort and set a five-year goal to move to healthier oils, natural sweeteners and zero trans fats. The move resulted in zero-calorie SoBe Lifewater sweetened with PureVia; Trop 50 with half the calories and sugar of conventional orange juice; and Cap’n Crunch with less saturated fat.

The strategy is resonating with snack consumers at a time when national-brand loyalty is on the wane.

“Frito-Lay had stronger revenue and value share growth than any major consumer goods company,” said Richard Goodman, PepsiCo’s chief financial officer, during the company’s first-quarter earnings call.

PepsiCo also managed to maintain its stock position during a difficult year by tapping international markets — the source of more than one-quarter of its revenues, according to reports.

Nooyi plans to invest at least $1 billion over the next four years in China, where she’ll build factories, research consumer trends and tailor products to local tastes. An additional $1 billion is earmarked by PepsiCo and its bottler the Pepsi Bottling Group, for investment in the Russian market over three years, according to reports.

U.S. efforts are also under way. Despite the rejection of its initial bid, PepsiCo is still pursuing a deal to buy the remaining stakes in its two largest bottlers: the Pepsi Bottling Group and Pepsi-Americas. The move would allow PepsiCo to easily shift product between warehouse and direct-store-delivery systems, based on channel, customer and product type. “We would provide one face to beverage customers in 80% of the country,” Nooyi said.

She also hopes to lessen PepsiCo’s ecological impact. “We want to make sure we’re neutral from an environmental perspective so we don’t add costs to society,” she said. The food and beverage maker is retrofitting all of its existing facilities with green equipment, and is working to further reduce the PET content of its plastic bottles, according to Nooyi.

As a mother, who sympathizes with the “heartbreaks, regrets, trade-offs and pain [women] go through to get to the CEO job,” Nooyi is also investing in mentoring mechanisms, affinity groups and other resources that will benefit PepsiCo’s most important asset: its people. “We want a company where people can bring their whole selves to work,” she said.

— Julie Gallagher