PepsiCo Inc. doesn’t sell much directly to consumers online. But it sees ecommerce as a vital part of its future and credits digital sales with helping it—and the retailers it works with—stay competitive and connected with consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The consumer packaged goods (CPG) giant set up a dedicated ecommerce team about five-and-a-half years ago in 2015, says Vince Jones, head of global ecommerce at PepsiCo. Those ecommerce investments put PepsiCo in an excellent position to ramp up distribution to online channels once the pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, he says.

“I give PepsiCo credit for recognizing that ecommerce disruption was coming, and it was going to happen, although we didn’t exactly know when,” Jones says. PepsiCo tasked that group with working with retailers to “develop the online channel” by figuring out the kinds of technologies and other changes that transformation would require and investing as necessary, he says.

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