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Prioritizing Innovation

Carolina Otero, Consumer Insights Manager at PepsiCo

— March 17, 2017 — Business
Carolina Otero is a Consumer Insights Manager at PepsiCo, where she’s currently responsible for the BFY brands Sunbites, Snack a Jacks and Popworks in the UK and the rest of Western Europe. Carolina’s role covers new product development as well as branding and comms. Trend Hunter chatted with her about working around barriers, prioritizing relevant trends, and how retail will transform in 10 years time.

How does your team generate great ideas? Do you have certain rituals to make creativity happen?

We’ve been going through a transformation a PepsiCo in a sense, as we’ve been busy coming up with new ways to look into insights, bring innovative ideas, and more inspiration to our team over the course of the last 12 months. These are quite related to specific products and brands, but in general, we’re sharing more of the different lessons we’re acquiring with one another.

We're really trying to bring the consumer much closer to us, and making sure that this happens early in the process. We’re also being more design-oriented in our approach when it comes to innovation. We’re always focusing on uncovering and learning more about trends that are relevant to us as well, so that we can prioritize what we need to do.

What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them?

The greatest barrier we have are processes that are there to reduce risk but that also slow us down. The big challenge is to work on new ideas with speed and agility. As a big mass company, our capabilities aren’t as flexible as the current market environment requires. Another challenge is to balance the short and the long term. Frequently we find ourselves focusing more on the short term than what we would like.

We’re transforming the way we do things so we can work more flexibly and faster. We are developing new capabilities and also bringing more foresight to the business. We are pushing ourselves to find new and different solutions to issues and challenges, to be more open to risk and to test and learn in market.

How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and insights?

Our Insights team is developing new capabilities around trends and foresight to be able to advise the business on what is happening, what is coming and what we should prioritize. We also work with external suppliers. We're applying different lenses to the trends we see to be able to prioritize what we should be working on and planning for.

Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?

We are always trying to look at other industries, you can accomplish a lot by applying things that have been done elsewhere to your own company. It’s an integral part of innovative thinking. You have to be aware of what’s happening and see if you can adapt it to benefit your company.

What do you think your industry will look like in 10 years?

The world is changing fast and our industry, as most if not all others, is affected by the changes. Households, retailers, consumer habits have evolved so much in the last years. We expect that there will be continuous pressure from the government, retailers and also consumers to provide healthier snacking options, more snack-like meals and more solutions for on-the-go consumption.