The next CEO@Smith presentation will feature C.E. Andrews from McGladrey
on Feb. 7, 2012 at 5:30 p.m. More
CEO@Smith: Al Carey, CEO, PepsiCo Americas Beverages
For Albert “Al” Carey, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, Tuesday night’s
presentation was more than an opportunity to talk about being the CEO of a major
company; it was an opportunity to speak with students at his alma mater and to visit
the campus of which he has fond memories.
On Nov. 15, 2011, Carey joined the Robert H. Smith School of Business for the
last presentation in the CEO@Smith Speaker Series for the fall semester: “It is
a real honor for me to have the opportunity to be back on this campus and for me
to be here at the business school,” he said. “I am passionate about the work I’m
doing, but I’m even more passionate to speak to this young audience. The most exciting
part of the job is to nurture the young people in the business world – you are the
future. If one or two of you take away just one piece of career advice, I would
consider tonight a success.”
Carey assumed his role as the CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, a unit of PepsiCo,
in September 2011 and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of PepsiCo’s beverage
business across North, South and Central America. He joined the company 1981, and
has served in a variety of positions, including COO of PepsiCo Beverages and Foods;
president of PepsiCo Sales; and most recently as president and CEO of Frito-Lay
North America (FLNA). In this role, Carey was responsible for overseeing all of
FLNA, the company’s most profitable operating division and largest North American
Before joining PepsiCo, Carey worked at Procter & Gamble. He received his BS
from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1974 and is a former member of
the Dean’s Advisory Council at the Smith School.
Carey focused his presentation mostly on his time spent at Frito-Lay, discussing
their strategy for performing with purpose: “We’ve always been known as a company
with good performance, but the whole idea of having a purpose was quite different.
If you don’t have purpose, you won’t attract young people into your business.”
Frito -Lay tried to make their products healthier than before, looked to their
customers for feedback, made great strides in bettering the planet (Sun Chips are
cooked by an entirely solar-powered system!), and worked to create an environment
that inspired confident employees.
“If you only do one thing well, treat your people well. Make it your mission
to inspire greatness in others – this is the most important part of our vision,”
he explained. “Your number one job as a leader is to lead optimistically. If you
do, your people will see the positivity and the hope and will show their best selves
and produce the best results possible.”
Carey also spoke to marketing a company whose products are pretty much all junk
food. For several years, Frito Lay focused its marketing on making their products
seem healthier, thinking that an overall health and wellness concern was causing
business to slow down. They learned that of the market, 10 percent of people are
purists who would never touch a potato chip; 25 percent are conflicted and on different
days act differently about their food choices; and 65 percent will eat a snack regardless
of the nutritional information once they’ve decided they want one.
They also learned that people act differently when they are home alone versus
when they are with others: “When you are at a barbecue you are drinking beer and
eating the hot dogs, but when you are at home you are a bit more controlled with
what you are eating,” Carey said, giving props to McDonalds and Subway for serving
healthy options alongside their not-so-healthy menu counterparts.
“They are selling as many Big Macs as before and they’re still offering salads
for those people who want the healthier alternative,” he said.
Still, Frito Lay has started making 50 percent of its products with all-natural
ingredients and has taken 15 percent of sodium out of its potato chips. In addition,
80 percent of the products are gluten-free.
“Our products have gotten a lot healthier, but we don’t talk about it on the
front of the bag because ‘low fat’ and ‘low sodium’ are both phrases associated
with poor taste,” Carey explained.
Carey finished his talk with questions from students and advice for their time
at the university: “My experiences at this university definitely affected my career.
This school prepared me as a leader I had the opportunity to get a great education.
My advice for you is to take on many activities in addition to your studies – It
was good training for me to learn to balance multiple things at once and it has
definitely helped me in my career to be able to multitask well.”
Jessica Smith, Writer and Editor, Office of Marketing Communications