How Former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico Transformed the Corporation Into a Food and Beverage Giant

Enrico, who died at age 71 on June 1, helped Pepsi rival Coke and dive deeper into the food business.

learn more about Lydia Belanger

By Lydia Belanger

Peter Carrette Archive | Getty Images

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Stroll the aisles of any grocery or convenience store, and you'll witness Roger Enrico's legacy.

Enrico started his PepsiCo career in 1971, marketing Funyuns for the company's Frito-Lay subsidiary. He had earned a business administration degree from Babson College before serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War. Despite never enrolling in an MBA program, he quickly moved up the ranks at Pepsi, becoming chief executive of Pepsi-Cola USA in 1983 at the age of 38. By that time, he'd already had stints as brand manager of both Cheetos and Fritos, as well head of PepsiCo's operations in Japan and South America. From 1996 to 2001, Enrico served as PepsiCo's chairman and CEO.

During his 30-year career with the company, he spearheaded crucial marketing campaigns that positioned Pepsi on par with Coca-Cola for the first time, pushing celebrity endorsements and the Pepsi Challenge. Behind the scenes, he shifted the company's focus toward restaurants and food.

"Roger Enrico was, quite simply, one of the most creative marketers of his or any generation," said Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo's current chairman and CEO, in an email statement. "He was a risk-taker, never afraid to challenge the status quo."

Related: PepsiCo CEO: Don't Call People 'Sweetie' or 'Honey' in the Workplace

Here's how Enrico elevated Pepsi from Coke wannabe to branding powerhouse.

He made the "other guy blink."
Pepsi had always ranked far below Coke, but when Enrico became chief executive of Pepsi's USA operations, the tables began to turn.

Within a year of becoming the head of Pepsi-Cola USA, Enrico landed the ultimate celebrity endorsement: Michael Jackson. It was the largest sponsorship in history, at $5 million ($11.5 million in today's dollars). The partnership gave Pepsi a fresh, youthful image and made the world's hottest pop star the face of the brand, intertwining Pepsi with the King of Pop's image.

"You couldn't separate the tour from the endorsement from the licensing of the music, and then the integration of the music into the Pepsi fabric. If you pulled any one of those pieces apart, it really took away from what the campaign was all about," former TBA Global branded entertainment executive vice president Brian J. Murphy told Billboard in 2009.

Other celebrity endorsements followed, including Madonna and Michael J. Fox. By 1985, Pepsi's share of the cola market had reached 30 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. At that time, Coca-Cola became paranoid and altered its recipe, replacing it with New Coke.

"After 87 years of going at it eyeball to eyeball, the other guy just blinked," Enrico wrote in a newspaper ad and a 1986 memoir titled, The Other Guy Blinked—How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars. New Coke's launch went down in history as one of the most ill-advised marketing decisions of all time.

Related: The Iconic Pepsi Ad That Made Coke Go Ballistic

Then he made some major acquisitions.
Though it successfully positioned itself as a direct rival, Pepsi never fully overtook Coke in popularity. At the turn of the century, when Enrico served as PepsiCo's CEO, he began to restructure the global corporation as a parent company for a diversity of other products. While PepsiCo had long been in the snack and restaurant business, with Frito-Lay, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC under its umbrella, soda was the company's namesake and priority.

In 1998, PepsiCo acquired Tropicana Products from Seagram Co. for $3.3 billion. The following year, Enrico was responsible for spinning off the company's fast-food division into Tricon Global Restaurants (now Yum! Brands). By 2001, he had completed a $13.4 billion acquisition of Quaker Oats Co., which produces Gatorade.

While a foray into food may seem puzzling, it was the smart move for Pepsi, which already had robust distribution channels in place through Frito-Lay. Enrico envisioned Pepsi and a food megabrand, and today, the company owns 22 iconic brands -- all of which generated at least $1 billion in sales in 2015, according to the company.

Today, PepsiCo's market value is $148 billion. Enrico left the company in 2001, but his marketing and growth strategies continue to pay off.

Lydia Belanger
Lydia Belanger is a former associate editor at Entrepreneur. Follow her on Twitter: @LydiaBelanger.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This 61-Year-Old Grandma Who Made $35,000 in the Medical Field Now Earns 7 Figures in Retirement
A 'Quiet Promotion' Will Cost You a Lot — Use This Expert's 4-Step Strategy to Avoid It
3 Red Flags on Your LinkedIn Profile That Scare Clients Away
'Everyone Is Freaking Out.' What's Going On With Silicon Valley Bank? Federal Government Takes Control.

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.


21 Productive Things to Do During Your Commute

How to use this frustrating "wasted time" to get smarter, more focused and re-energized.

Business News

Amtrak Introduces 'Night Owl' Prices With Some Routes As Low As $5

The new discounts apply to some rides between Washington D.C. and New York City.

Business News

Carnival Cruise Wants Passengers to Have Fun in the Sun — But Do This, and You'll Get Burned With a New $500 Fee

The cruise line's updated contract follows a spate of unruly guest behavior across the tourism industry.


Don't Neglect This One Crucial Step of Leading Through Constant Change

Investing in the skills necessary to guide employees through change effectively will have a powerful impact on long-term company morale.


Working Remote? These Are the Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Video Conferencing

As more and more businesses go remote, these are ways to be more effective and efficient on conference calls.