Consumer involvement drives innovation at Frito-Lay

PLANO, Texas — When it comes to new product innovation, few, if any, companies can match what Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo, Purchase, NY, does on an annual basis.

Over the past year, the plano, texas-based snack producer has introduced a host of new snack varieties and limited-time deals to create excitement and generate buzz in the snack aisle.

What drives innovation at Frito-Lay? Jared Johnson, Vice President of Marketing Function Innovation for Frito-Lay North America, explains how the company engages consumers and responds to emerging trends in this interview for Snack World Magazine, a publication produced by Sosland Publishing in association with SNAC International. Post will be mailed in March and will be available at SNAXPO. , which runs from March 19-21 in Orlando, Florida.

What trends have surprised you over the past 12 months?

With so much attention in food to sustainability, transparency, and health and wellness, the relevance of the trend around nostalgia and convenience surprised me because consumers crave a simpler time given the vast uncertainty of the past few years. Consumers are looking for brands and products that are familiar and convenient. This is not to say that sustainability and transparency or health and wellness aren’t major trends in snacking, they are. We’re seeing an emphasis on both the past and the future playing out simultaneously.

What trends will drive Frito-Lay innovation for 2023??

The trends that have guided our 2023 innovation pipeline are derived from our understanding of consumer behavior, specifically as we get through the pandemic. Some behaviors are new, such as how our homes act more as a hub for how we work, live, and play. The 2023 Snacks Index supports the role home plays in consumers’ snacking habits: We found that most Americans enjoy snacks at home with family (62%) or when they take time for themselves (62%). Other behaviors, such as an increasingly mobile lifestyle or blurring the lines between snacks and meals, were halted during the pandemic and are now picking up.

How does Frito Lay seek innovation with new flavors and textures?

Flavor and texture are central to how Americans snack. For example, the 2023 Snacks Index shows that almost 1 in 4 Americans prefer salty snacks, and almost half of consumers prefer their snacks a puff style. We also see that more than 70% of consumers say they are more excited to try new flavors or variations of their favorite snacks in 2023 than in previous years. We spend a lot of time understanding not only how flavors and textures evolve across foods and beverages, but more importantly what they present to the consumer physically and emotionally and how they influence consumers’ snacking behaviors. We are very knowledgeable in creating snacks that deliver on our brand promises while delighting consumers on all of their snacking occasions.

Where do you see Frito-Lay’s snack industry expanding in 2023 and beyond?

To answer this question, you first need to understand how Americans’ lives evolve, their relationship to food and drink and the role snacks play. Simply put, great taste, joy and self-treatment will continue to be staples of the snack. But we’re also seeing Americans snack more than ever as they shift from three meals a day to smaller meals to fit into their busy lifestyles. With this shift comes increased expectations about the functional benefits of snacks. Consumers are also increasingly looking for brands to reflect their values, which places more emphasis on our snack brands to not only deliver a great snacking experience, but also to deliver purpose and be mindful of the impact they make on our planet.

What is fueling the growth of Frito-Lay in the field of snacks?

Our growth comes from a number of factors. First, the evolution of consumer lifestyles has led to an increase in snacking in general. Second, the desire to congregate more often in real life post-pandemic has led to increased social snacking. Finally, the desire for brands that meet consumer needs through fun, convenience, and better options. We have a variety of amazing snacks and brands that cater across the snacking spectrum.

How is Frito-Lay innovative in its communication with consumers to increase brand awareness?

Innovation in how we interact with consumers is critical as we look to cut through the chaos of today’s online environment. We’ve seen great success using social platforms as an opportunity to have an ongoing conversation with our consumers, as their comments and direct messages help us understand the pulse of how they’re really feeling. We’ve found a strong involvement in adding value to our customers’ lives, a good example of which is our inspiring recipe posts for brands like Tostitos and Doritos.