PepsiCo's search for a new baked crisp product that is a hit with consumers is "by far its biggest challenge", UK president Richard Evans has admitted.

PepsiCo this week released the results of its UK and Ireland business against a raft of health pledges set in March last year. Of 20 pledges, half have already been hit but two have been missed, including its ambitious pledge for 50% of its savoury snacks to be baked or to include positive nutrition by 2015, on which PepsiCo has currently made "no progress".

However, speaking exclusively to The Grocer, Evans said he was confident the army of food scientists working for the company would soon triumph. "By far the biggest challenge is figuring out how we create a baked crisp that delivers the same experience," he said.

Just 9% of PepsiCo's total portfolio currently matches the target, a decline of 1% in the past two years, with the availability of Walkers baked products falling by more than 10% since 2008.

But in other areas it has been far more successful, reducing salt in core Walkers crisps by an average of 11.7% since making the pledges and increasing to 54% the amount of its portfolio defined as healthy. However, one illusive target remains the removal of artificial ingredients from Walkers cheese and onion crisps, achieved for all other flavours.

"We knew these were very aggressive goals," Evans said. "We could easily have not set ones that stretched us but then they would have been irrelevant."

Read more
PepsiCo admits it’ll be hard to cut salt further (14 February 2011)
PepsiCo's Richard Evans: A not so trivial pursuit (31 July 2010)