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Diving Deep in Innovation

Ciara Dilley, Senior Director of Global Snacks Innovation at PepsiCo

— March 22, 2017 — Business
Ciara Dilley is Senior Director of Global Snacks Innovation at PepsiCo. In this role, she focuses on transforming the company’s expansive snacks portfolio, even beyond its current range of brands. She stays on top of trends and is always looking for new opportunities that could apply within the company. In her talk with Trend Hunter, she discussed the draws of taking on new experiences to ignite creative thought, how regional and global trends interact, as well as how to understand Millennials in commercial terms.

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

We try to do different activities to help us come up with new ideas, and change our perspective by looking to various resources. We like to look at what other brands are doing too, both those in our own area of expertise and those outside of it. We tend to spend a lot of time scoping out very broad opportunities before we start to hamper it with more practicalities. We also use workshops and will sometimes look to external agencies for assistance if a task calls for it.

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

One of the biggest barriers is an ability to see the broader world and its applicability. It’s easy to become constrained to your own perspective within the business. Breaking out of that is important because it enables you to look at the world with open eyes so that you can clearly see how much opportunity is out there, even if you don't see it's applicability at the time.

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

Apart from using a wide range of resources, we find it’s helpful to go on safaris, where we’re able to go out with influencers, nutritionists, and more to get into a different mindset completely.

Do you notice a big connection to global trends and regional trends?

Absolutely, I think that the world is getting smaller and smaller in that way. We see so much similarity between our different regional partners. Sometimes, the execution of something, or the timing of it is different across regions, but there’s so many similarities there as well. Social media, a rise in communication, and the ability travel more frequently has really caused this to happen.

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

All the time. We try to look as broadly as we can when it comes to innovation. Right now technology is a huge influence -- but not even the technology itself. Rather, it’s more about how companies within the industry have broken up the rule book in a sense. Apple and Samsung are both great examples of this. We don’t limit ourselves to just our industry because there’s so much to learn from others in terms of behaviour, approach, and the disruption of rules that weren’t broken before.

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

I think the impact of megatrends like health and wellness will have a huge impact on the industry, and just in general. It’s becoming such a broad trend and I think its implications will have a massive influence. Technology will also impact the industry immensely, as it will transform how consumers access their snacks, how they interact with them, and where they get their sources of inspiration from. The social media link within the technology industry will bring a lot of opportunity as well.

The balance between the globalization and regionalization of food trends is really interesting to look at in these terms too. The world is getting smaller it seems and because of that, we’re sharing more and becoming more similar in various ways. At the same time, it’s clear that people still want to honor their regional roots when it comes to food, so I look forward to seeing how this balance will take shape in the future.

How does PepsiCo approach the Millennial demographic?

We spend a lot of time connecting with them, and challenging ourselves by asking how much we really understand this demographics. We look at our brand and our portfolio and consider how we can engineer it to address their specific needs.

Lately, we’ve also been addressing the need to dive deeper when it comes to understanding Millennials, as it’s such a broad demographic that can’t just be tethered to one definition. By doing this, we’re able to have more empathy and compatibility with Millennials as a whole, because we make it clear that a one size fits all definition doesn’t pertain to them.

What’s the most unconventional thing you have done to get creative inspiration?

Going on safari trips definitely helps in getting creative inspiration. Taking the time to really get outside of your daily routine and looking widely for inspiration holds a lot of value. While I was working at Guinness, I once brought my mother and father into a room and asked them about how a relationship stays strong, to understand how to build brand affinity. These experiences can take various forms though, whether it’s trying new foods, traveling to new places and experiencing different regional cultures, or just being open to new experiences of any kind really impacts your ability to find creative inspiration.