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PepsiCo CEO to critics: No snack-soft drink split

To those who say PepsiCo's snack and soft drink businesses should be split up, CEO Indra Nooyi posed this question: "If you eat a bag of Fritos, do you reach for a beverage?"

In an interview Friday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Nooyi insisted, "These two categories are better together, not just in the United States, but around the world."

At the CNBC-Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference in July, activist investor Nelson Peltz argued that consumer tastes are turning against soft drinks, and Pepsi's snack unit is being overshadowed by its underperforming beverage unit.

Peltz, a major Pepsi shareholder, said at the time that the company should buy Mondelez—the snack food company spun off from Kraft in 2012—and then sell Pepsi's soft drink business altogether.

(Flashback: Pepsi Q2 profits beat; CFO answers Peltz on Mondelez)

Investors will find out how snacks and beverages performed for all of last year at PepsiCo, when the company reports its fourth quarter earnings next month.

For the third quarter, the maker of Pepsi-Cola, Frito-Lay snacks, and Tropicana juice earned $1.24 a share, excluding one time items, which beat analyst expectations of $1.17.

The health-conscious consumer

Just this week, an independent evaluation showed that the world's largest food and beverage companies, including PepsiCo, have far exceeded a five-year goal set in 2010 to fight obesity by removing trillions of calories from products sold in the United States.

(Read more: Food companies exceed goals in cutting calories)

That eventual demand for healthier options wasn't so apparent when Nooyi took over as CEO in 2006. She told CNBC that public projections for sugary soft drinks and fatty, salty snacks were forecasting boom times ahead—upwards of 7 percent growth.

But at the time, Nooyi said she saw it differently. "if you really dug underneath that and looked at the public policy debates going on, the consumer chatter going on, what hospitals were talking about, the trend was going to be different."

She saw she fought internally and externally to "reduce the salt and sugar and fat in our fun-for-you products," while dialing-up the "good-for-you products" and making them taste great.

Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove told CNBC on Friday that the efforts by food and beverage companies to offer healthier options is a step in the right direction. "Not only do we have to change the food we eat, … we have to educate people about what they can eat appropriately."

(Read more: No new Obamacare rush yet: Cleveland Clinic CEO)

But he said there are not enough incentives for further changes. "I think the pressure has got to come from the populace, not from the government."

By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC.

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