Food Companies Pursue the Elusive Digital Dollar

Food and beverage companies are wrestling with what should be their role in e-commerce.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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Pepsi WashingtonRedskins canPepsiCo’s 2017 annual report puts e-commerce sales at approximately $1 billion, with most of the action in the U.S. and China. The company’s e-commerce team developed branded National Football League gift packs with team-themed products “to help consumers amp up their game-watch parties.” In China, PepsiCo launched novel snacks exclusively for online channels, “driving revenue gains in the region.”

“We think of e-commerce … [as] the Amazons of the world, and then the grocery click-and-collect,” Al Carey, CEO of PepsiCo North America, said at last February’s Consumer Analysts Group of New York (CAGNY) Conference. “Some parts of our portfolio play better than others in e-commerce. It’s not a material share of the business yet, but it is an extremely fast-growing part and we feel very grounded in how we are doing well in it.”

“We brought a lot of people from outside PepsiCo; we knew we didn’t understand the space,” Vivek Sankaran, president and COO of Frito-Lay North America, said at the same CAGNY meeting. “It’s not so much the physical side of it, it’s really about how do you win the screen, and that’s the skill set we didn’t have. So we have a bunch of people [and] that’s all they think about.”

Campbell Soup

Campbell Soup Co.’s digital strategy is a little up in the air, as the company undergoes a reorganization that will shrink it considerably. Former CEO Denise Morrison spoke often about e-commerce and food delivery … maybe that’s why she’s no longer CEO.

“Picture your pantry replenishing itself when you’re running low on broth or salad dressing. Of course, we’ll want those refills to be Swanson broth and Bolthouse Farms [dressings],” she told the CEO Club of Boston College, her alma mater, in 2017. “But regardless of brand, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other emerging technologies may soon meet your needs automatically.”

BearNakedCampbell Soup launched its new V8+Hydrate line exclusively to Amazon, Peapod and this summer, and plans to debut the beverage line at brick-and-mortar retailers in November.


Kellogg Co.’s Bear Naked brand has a channel on its website where visitors can create their own granola “with over 50 chef-inspired ingredients,” the opening page says. “Then, blend them with the help of our good friend IBM Chef Watson to create the perfect tasting granola. We’ve got everything from jalapenos to pomegranate arils, so go wild!”

After creating your blend, you get to name it and choose one of five bears to be pictured on your canister. My 11-oz. concoction cost $9.99 – postage was free.

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