@WLSA: PepsiCo tests the wireless health waters

By MHN Staff
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Photo Credit: Paul Savage Photography

Photo Credit: Paul Savage Photography

By Padma Nagappan

Venture capitalists have begun to see interest in leveraging wireless healthcare technology from different quarters, including Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, retailers and even PepsiCo.

Explaining why PepsiCo was participating at the WLSA Convergence Summit in San Diego this Wednesday, Physic Ventures partner Andy Donner said the company wants to drive growth through innovation, and wireless technology would play a role in advancing its reach to highly empowered consumers who make informed decisions when choosing snack foods and beverages.

Margaret Dohnalek, Global Head of Technology Scouting, PepsiCo Corporate R&D/Long Term Research, plays a role specifically created for her, in order to explore and identify innovative technologies and build new technology platforms that will form the basis for innovation with existing Pepsi products.

"We're now a full member of WLSA and we're participating, because it’s a way for us to get visibility, for when PepsiCo is ready to engage," Dohnalek said, specifying that the company was still exploring technology options and not yet ready to deploy them.

She trotted out Pepsi's by now well-known slogan coined by CEO Indra Nooyi -- "performance with purpose" -- which means focusing on providing people with choices that are fun, healthier and good for them; aiming for meaningful innovation; launching products that deliver value and supporting the planet.

"The reason PepsiCo is here and its appropriate for many of you to engage with us, is that we believe our business is not our products but our consumers. The consumer is our business," Dohnalek said. "And we are looking at consumer-focused innovation."

Consumers are becoming better informed and knowledgeable about their health and eating choices, and satisfying the consumer will lead to business growth, she said. To this end, PepsiCo has identified several mega-trends over three years of research, which it believes will drive innovation:

  1. Consumers of tomorrow are knowledgeable, benefit driven, empowered, and focused on health and wellness. They also make informed decisions influenced by IT - for example, how they feel about salty snacks and how that influences buying decisions. This will lead to a revolution of the shopping cart, with data integration leading to empowerment.
  2. Concept of Quantified Self -- what does the consumer want to know about himself and how can PepsiCo tap that knowledge? Dohnalek talked about how when it comes to exercising, some people are regular walkers, some are weekend warriors and others are elite athletes. "How this is relevant for us is that, we appeal to all of them with different products, beverages and sports drinks."
  3. Benefit driven wireless technology -- with its Gatorade science institute, it thinks it can partner with mobile health companies, to monitor the physiological parameters (vitals such as pulse and blood pressure, hydration status, caloric intake, speed) with wireless sensors.
  4. Wireless technology can be part of a product play and also part of lifestyle play. Products tailored to the consumer will tie in health and wellness with technology
  5. Knowledge is an innovation driver -- and bio-monitoring empowers the consumer.
  6. Link products to lifestyle, so consumers can better manage health and wellness; link products to technology, so data can lead them to choose certain products.

"We believe that wireless technologies can drive product innovation and that's why we're a part of this," Dohnalek said.

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