Lisa Mann is back in Big Food. The one-time Kraft/Mondelez exec, who departed in 2015 to lead marketing for the upstart Kind brand before forming her own consultancy earlier this year, has taken a position as senior VP-global nutrition at PepsiCo.
Ms. Mann's new job gives her an influential role shaping the long-term strategy and innovation plans for the food and beverage giant's healthier brands, including Quaker, Naked and Tropicana. She reports to Eugene Willemsen, PepsiCo's exec VP-global categories and franchise management. The nutrition role had been vacant since February when Marc Schroeder left the post to become senior VP-general manager for Pepsi Lipton.
Ms. Mann left Kind in April to form her own advisory business called Think Marketing Advisors, whose aim was to assist emerging and high-growth startups in the food, digital media, and health and wellness categories. She joined Kind -- whose products include snack bars -- in January 2015 after a stint at Mondelez, where she held roles including VP-cookies. In marketing circles she is known as the woman who green-lighted Oreo's "You can still dunk in the dark" tweet during the power outage at the 2013 Super Bowl that was seen as a watershed moment for real-time marketing.
"I left Kind because I really wanted to have the opportunity to effect greater change in food and health and wellness," she told Ad Age in September.
So why come back to a big food company now? "I was not looking," she said in a recent interview. "I really thought that I would stay [at Think Marketing]. I love entrepreneurs. I love building businesses and building new businesses and I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to work with Kind and to work with the portfolio companies I was working for." But "I truly felt [the PepsiCo job] was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create change at a scale level and affect a bigger part of the population."
She continued: "I think the Quaker brand is an extraordinary brand that is inherently linked to health and wellness and ... I would love to be a part of the team that makes it even more contemporary and relevant."
Ms. Mann's hiring comes as PepsiCo makes other personnel changes within its nutrition group, which is run from the marketer's Chicago office. Morgan Flatley, who had been chief marketing officer for PepsiCo-owned Gatorade and Propel, in late summer took on a new role of chief marketing officer for the global nutrition group and senior VP-global grains. She was replaced at Gatorade by Andrew Hartshorn, who was promoted to serve as the U.S. CMO for the brand. Ms. Flatley now reports to Ms. Mann. Earlier this year PepsiCo hired Koen Burghouts from Danone as VP-dairy within the global nutrition group where he is overseeing a Quaker-branded drinkable oats product sold in China.
But marketing healthy food is easier said than done. In a lengthy look at PepsiCo's healthy products strategy, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that "despite an expanding stable of 'good for you' brands like Quaker oatmeal, Naked juice and Sabra humus, PepsiCo fell behind the goal it made in 2010 to triple revenue from nutritious products to $30 billion this decade."
In October, PepsiCo set new nutrition goals that includes seeking sales growth from "everyday nutrition products" by 2025 that outpaces "the rate of sales growth in the balance of PepsiCo's portfolio." Everyday nutrition products are those that "deliver whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, protein and hydration," according to the goals. Such products accounted for 25% of PepsiCo's global net revenue in 2015, according to the company.
Ms. Mann said healthy brands must be marketed much differently than cookies or potato chips. "In health and wellness, it's about helping consumers find solutions, but they are in charge, versus the push strategy of classic CPG."
As a sign of things to come, she pointed to a branded content deal PepsiCo's Quaker recently struck with Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington's new wellness company. Thrive's business plan includes consulting, e-commerce as well as a website that aims to be a "global hub for the conversation about well-being and performance."
Quaker's year-long partnership with Thrive includes a campaign that will focus on "making mornings more joyful and productive," according to a press release issued in late November announcing Thrive's launch. "We share in Thrive's principle that micro-steps are an easily adoptable path to change and through this partnership, we look forward to bringing more of that oat goodness and nutritional value to people around the world in ways that educate, entertain and entice," Ms. Flatley stated in the press release.
As PepsiCo pursues more content deals like this, does it mean fewer big budget traditional ad campaigns? "That is something that with the team we will think about more," Ms. Mann said. "But I do think there is an inherent switch to how do you help people find the product [and] the tools to live a healthier lifestyle, versus telling. And we need to think through over the coming months and year [about] how to do that."