Cramer: Outgoing PepsiCo CEO 'saw the future coming' when few did

  • Cramer recounts his experience with Pepsi's CEO Indra Nooyi, who announced Monday that she is stepping down from the position.
  • He praised Nooyi's refusal to sacrifice corporate responsibility and sustainability in favor of short-term growth while also tripling the company's dividends.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi announced on Monday that she was stepping down, following a 12-year run as CEO and 24 years with the company. President Ramon Laguarta will take over the role in October.

Since Nooyi became CFO in 2000, the stock has increased about 245 percent, with a higher total return than both the consumer staples sector ETF (XLP) and the S&P 500 overall. An earlier version of this story said the stock increased 411 percent since Nooyi became CFO, which represented the total return for the stock if investors reinvested the dividends.

Dividends have tripled since she became CEO in 2006, and the number of billion-dollar brands within the company grew from 17 to 22.

CNBC's Jim Cramer recounted one of his first interactions with Nooyi over a decade ago. He lamented the future of PepsiCo's products after noticing that the snacks weren't popular with his daughter and her friends.

"I had thrown a sleepover party for my daughter's swim team. I had stocked baskets all over the house with Doritos and Cheetos and Lay's potato chips, and the kids studiously avoided them. I was shocked," he said. "I realized that these kids represented the future and the future looked grim for these kinds of unhealthy snacks."

After the segment aired, Nooyi called the "Mad Money" host to dispute his comments. Not long after, Cramer visited PepsiCo's factory in Aberdeen and had a change of perspective.

"I saw the future: sustainable snacks with very little sodium and very little fat made in a factory that had no water footprint because it used the excess water from the potatoes it cut," he said. "[Nooyi] saw the future coming - a future of sustainability and healthy eating - when few others did."

Since then, Cramer has praised Nooyi's refusal to sacrifice corporate responsibility and sustainability in favor of short-term growth.

"Her 'Performance with a Purpose' program and her notion of 'doing well by doing good' are her real hallmarks as Nooyi has pioneered the notion of healthier options while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and being at the forefront of diversity," he said. "These moves don't pay off immediately. But they're still good ones."

Cramer described Nooyi's successor, Ramon Laguarta, as "an insider with tremendous international experience" and implored him to "follow in [Nooyi's] giant footsteps."

The "Mad Money" host added that the run in PepsiCo's stock after Nooyi announced her departure could mean that investors expect Laguarta to bring out value in a radical way. But as an investor in PepsiCo for his charitable trust, Cramer didn't necessarily want instant gratification.

"I'm not interested in short-term pops," Cramer said. "We want long-term stability and sustainability. We want what Indra's given us for years."

Shares of PepsiCo closed up almost one percent on Monday, at $117 a share.

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of PepsiCo.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect PepsiCo's total stock increase since Indra Nooyi became the company's chief financial officer in 2000.

WATCH: Cramer discusses outgoing PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi

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