Every year, procurement experts at PepsiCo secure 4 billion pounds of potatoes from about 165 different farms.
Supply chain and logistics managers then move the potatoes by trucks or refrigerated train cars depending on seasons and routes. The longest route is from North Dakota to a factory in Georgia.
Due to growing seasons, about 40% of potatoes go right from field to factory, but the other 60% are harvested then “put to sleep” by the farmers in specially designed barns.
Through innovations from PepsiCo engineers and crowdsourced suggestions from actual factory workers, it only takes about 20 minutes for a potato to come off a truck, be sliced, cooked and seasoned and dropped into a bag.
The ideal shape of a chip is a “saddle,” rounded with a bit of a curve. “Folded” chips are actually considered mistakes that occur when a potato slice is too thin and folds over when it hits the oil.
But consumers like folded chips so much, factory supervisors allow for them.
To make sure seasoning is evenly spread, the chips are dropped into a large rocket-shaped barrel where they are rotated and shaken as the seasoning is dusted onto them.
Lay’s uses all real ingredients and, for procurement managers, certain ingredients are harder to secure. One example is “aged cheddar” since the cheese has to be sourced years in advance.
Twice a shift, three to four factory employees act as taste testers to quality control the chips coming off the line.
CAREER INSIGHT: Procurement Director
To make predictions on how to gather all those potatoes each year, Ballard needs people with agricultural business degrees: “They need to be able to communicate with the growers and do analysis on farm economics — which varieties have the highest net payable yield for the grower? What growing conditions will create the best quality for us?” he says. All those factors have to be determined before costs can be established.
It’s a fun number to throw out there when people talk about How many potatoes do you use? Four billion, with a b.
procurement senior director, Frito-Lay North America
We can make 14,000 pounds of potato chips every hour.
material coordinator at the Killingly Frito-Lay factory
Stephen Chahanovich started as a third-shift processing operator and worked his way up to material coordinator. “I never went to college,” he says. “And I tell new hires, ‘Get good at your job, and if there’s something that interests you, say something.’ There’s so many opportunities — that’s the greatest part of working here.”
I led the work to make a chip taste like a cappuccino. Now, just because I can do it doesn’t mean consumers think I should do it, but I did it.
senior principal scientist
Want to make food and drinks taste great?
If you want to use your STEM degree to make people say, “Yum!” then PepsiCo might have the perfect position for you. To find out more, check out Deirdre Forrester, the associate principal scientist/flavorist behind bubly.
Want to design a bag of chips or a can of soda?
Designing consumer packaging is not only a fun challenge for artistic pros — you also get to see your work on store shelves and in TV commercials. Meet consumer designer Desiree Tomich, who helped create the bubly brand designs.
Lays was the first potato chip ever advertised on TV. The yellow bag with red Lay’s logo is now iconic and is trademarked in over 200 countries. When PepsiCo’s consumer researchers asked chip buyers to draw a bag of potato chips, they usually reached for a yellow marker.
In 2017, the Lay’s logo and packaging were a decade old and the design team decided to update both. The process took two years and brought together consumer insights, marketing, legal and design.
One of the big insights that drove the redesign is that while consumers like updated logos, they can be turned off by revolutionary changes—they want a continuation of what they love. So, the new design couldn’t stray too far from the beloved yellow circle and red banner.
The design team’s biggest change to the packaging was the photography. The food on the bag is now shot top-down, which is a nod to the food photography that became popularized by Instagram.
In addition, the logo was moved down to the center of the bag. This way it is never hidden by a shadow or blocked by a top shelf in the supermarket aisle. The frontline sales team loved this change.
The Lay’s marketing team launched the “Do Us a Flavor” contest in 2012 and it proved to be wildly popular—the contest received 3.8 million submissions in its first year. Now, they continually reach out to consumers on social media for their opinion.
Lay’s are sold in over 100 countries around the world though they go by different names in some countries.
Lay’s are called Walker’s in the UK and go by the name Sabritas in Mexico.
But no matter where Lay’s are sold, the chips all have the same brand standards and great taste.
“A day in the life of a trademark lawyer who works on the Lay’s brand is fast-paced and fun, because our famous brand keeps us on our toes addressing interesting legal issues,” says Jeanette Zimmer, legal senior director, trademark counsel.
Lauren McGlory, senior marketing manager, began her career as an intern while pursuing her MBA at Emory University. “PepsiCo was like the Harvard of marketing. The company is known to build the best business-minded people, and I just wanted to go where I can learn from the best,” she says.
The frontline sales team is considered the backbone of PepsiCo. James Simms, regional vice president of sales, is responsible for more than 3,500 frontline salespeople who supply grocery stores and convenience stores: “Day in and day out, we’re leading our teams to drive execution, and ensuring that we’re taking care of our people.”