Tim Ingmire Presenting

The future of my industry—and yours—is not in the hands of senior management.  Nor shareholders.  Nor regulators.  Nor business partners and suppliers who furnish us with sales platforms or raw materials.  The future of my industry—and yours—is not even in the hands of the people who buy our products.  

The future of our industries is in the hands of 14 year olds.

It is at this age, according to a recent report issued by EngineeringUK, that students will either be inspired by—or abandon altogether—the prospect of a career in STEM.

And if these young people don’t come to work at our offices and factories and R&D labs, our future is in jeopardy. Accordingly, all of us who work in STEM industries must work feverishly to convince young people that their future is with us.

Because the stakes are higher than ever.  Not just for our companies, but for society. 

… all of us who work in STEM industries must work feverishly to convince young people that their future is with us.

Consider these findings issued recently in the EngineeringUK report:

  • In 2014, the engineering sector contributed an estimated £455.6 billion (27.1%) of the UK’s total £1,683 billion GDP.
  • To satisfy future STEM-industry demand, between 2012 and 2022 engineering employers will need to recruit 2.56 million people, 257,000 of whom for new vacancies.
  • Yet current figures show that only 26,000 people are entering engineering occupations with level 3 Advanced Apprenticeships and only 82,000 at level 4+ (HND/C, foundation degree, undergraduate or postgraduate and equivalent).
  • Complicating matters further, the youth population is fluctuating.  The number of 14-year-olds is set to fall by 7.3% between 2012 and 2017 before jumping by 15.9% five years later. And the number of entry-level 18-year olds will also decrease by 8.9% between 2012 and 2022.

Against this backdrop, people at my company—and yours—must identify new and innovative ways to help young people understand the benefits of a career in STEM—both for themselves and for society.  This gap must be closed if our industries are to thrive long term.

For this reason, my company, one of the largest Food and Beverage (F&B) companies in the world, is fortifying our STEM capabilities.

At PepsiCo, we strive to close the STEM gap three ways.  First, by challenging young people’s perceptions – and misperceptions – about what it’s like to have a career in the Food and Beverage industry.  Second, by improving collaboration with academic and governmental organizations.  And third, by helping next-generation STEM employees who come to work at PepsiCo learn the “soft skills” necessary to thrive in the modern workplace.

I have prepared a series of posts to help explore these priorities, beginning with an analysis of youth perceptions about the food and beverage industry…

CHANGING YOUTH PERCEPTIONS ABOUT A FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY CAREER.

F&B companies are not always top of mind with graduating STEM professionals.  When people think of science, they are more apt to visualize rockets flying into orbit than the baking of snack crackers or production of beverages.  Yet F&B is actually the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, employing more than 400,000 people and contributing over £100 Billion to the economy.  The sector spends £1Billion on innovation.

Further, it is only by large scale commercial food production that we can reasonably expect to feed 65 million citizens in the UK sustainably.  And feeding the world requires a tremendous amount of scientific acumen.

To spark the imagination of STEM students, PepsiCo, like many other companies, hosts STEM events designed to introduce youth both to the romance of feeding a nation and the scientific unlocks required to do so successfully.

Hence we explain to young people that the scientific challenges in our industry are every bit as intellectually demanding and rewarding as in aerospace, pharma, biotech, or computer programming. 

To spark the imagination of STEM students, PepsiCo, like many other companies, hosts STEM events designed to introduce youth both to the romance of feeding a nation and the scientific unlocks required to do so successfully.

For example, one of the biggest challenges we face today as a food and beverage company is how to improve the nutritional profile of foods and beverages without compromising taste.  This is one of the biggest challenges F&B scientists face.  At the R&D Centre of Excellence we operate in Leicester—which employs more than 200 R&D associates, nearly one in two of them holders of advanced degrees—we are searching tirelessly for solutions.

And we’ve made great strides.  In the UK we have reduced sodium by between 25-55% since the mid- 2000s.  Our latest innovation has allowed us to reduce sodium in Doritos Tangy Cheese by 31% whilst retaining that great taste that Doritos fans love.

Here’s how we did it:  By adopting a rigorous science-led approach, we have been able to understand the role that sodium plays in the taste perception and formation of the microstructure of a number of our products and, from that, determined ways to remove sodium without impacting taste or texture.  This unlock required the deployment of a range of advanced techniques normally associated with work done in advanced physics or pharmaceutical labs.

In fact, within PepsiCo R&D, we regularly develop and use technologies such as high-speed robotics and optical systems, advanced computational modeling applied to field physics and engineering challenges, and chemical analysis using state of the art analytical equipment and know-how.  In short, our work encompasses the entire STEM spectrum.

Indeed, our F&B scientists are reducing the levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat across our entire portfolio —from iconic Pepsi soft drinks to Walker’s crisps to our Trop50 orange juice, which contains 50% less sugar than regular orange juice—all based on major technological breakthroughs.  Specifically, across PepsiCo’s Global R&D operations, we have:

  • Removed 3,900 metric tonnes of sodium from total foods portfolio in key global markets compared with 2006 and continuing to invest in new technologies and recipes that allow us to further reduce sodium levels.  (In the UK we have signed up to the UK Government’s Responsibility Deal Targets for Sodium for 2017.)
  • Removed approximately 2,100 metric tonnes of saturated fat from key global food brands between in 2013 compared with 2006.
  • Introduced a number of lower and zero-calorie beverage choices here in the UK (and worldwide), among them Trop 50 in the UK which provides 50% less calories and sugars than regular juice.  In Russia, we launched Lipton Ice Tea with 30% less sugar than regular Lipton Ice Tea. 

We have launched Pepsi Next, a mid-cal PepsiCola, in Australia, France, Canada and the Netherlands.  PepsiNext is sweetened with Stevia, a sweetener which is derived from a natural source.  Indeed, we removed approximately 402,000 metric tonnes of added sugars from our total beverage portfolio in North America in 2013 as compared to 2006.

And in the UK:

  • ­We set a target to deliver 1.7bn servings of wholegrain by 2015.  In 2013, the success of our convenient oat products (Oat So Simple Pots) enabled us to exceed this goal with the delivery of 2.3bn servings.
  • ­In the UK, 55.3% of our total sales volume came from products defined by Ofcom as ‘healthier.’  This increased from 54.4% in 2012.
  • ­We have reduced sodium by between 25-55% since the mid –‘00s.  Our latest innovation has allowed us to reduce sodium in Doritos Tangy Cheese by 31% whilst retaining that great taste that Doritos fans love.
  • A really great fact that is also assured is that 71% of our R&D budget is spent on the research and development of more nutritionally advantaged products. We know that this is an extremely rewarding prospective career path for young people.

See the nextin this series of blog posts: “Collaboration with Academic and Governmental Organisations“.

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