How PepsiCo is transforming the team behind its international foods business

The division behind brands that include Doritos, Walkers and Quaker is bringing together a multi-functional team focused on growing the business – but having fun along the way

230704 Mustafa Shamseldin Pepsico
Mustafa Shamseldin took up his role leading PepsiCo’s international foods business at the start of the year

PepsiCo’s international foods division is big business. The company might be most famous for its eponymous soft drinks, but Doritos, Lays and Quaker are huge brands that, together, account for around half the company’s revenues ($45bn), with around $21bn of that coming from international markets. 

The division has performed well in recent years, with strong growth particularly in its core brands. But the company felt it was missing an opportunity to capitalise on performance and drive sales still further. 

With that in mind, at the start of the year PepsiCo appointed Mustafa Shamseldin as its category growth officer and CMO for the international foods business. He has been at PepsiCo for more than 15 years in both marketing and operations roles in various countries and divisions, and in FMCG for longer still.

Mustafa Shamseldin’s CV

Shamseldin has spent his career working in FMCG around the world, starting out at Procter & Gamble and Henkel before moving to PepsiCo, 15 years ago.

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His appointment aims to bring marketing closer to operations. He is responsible for its brands as CMO but as category growth officer shapes its business model as well.

That has led to all the division’s business functions, from R&D to insights to communication being brought under one umbrella, rather than sitting in siloes. That means his team must consider new products and concepts, their costs, how to commercialise them, how they are launched and how they perform. 

“It’s a small change in title, but the way we work has changed,” he says. “If my role was only marketing, we would go from strategy to some brand work and stop there. Now we start with business priorities. Some of the work is brand-led, some is not, but we think about business model changes and innovation and take it from there. It’s about having an end-to-end view.”

Shamseldin is used to working in this way, having previously spent most of his career working in what he dubs operational roles, including as general manager and leading a number of regions across the PepsiCo business. But he admits it was a big change for the division that required a shift in culture as well as in ways of working. 

For example, while reporting lines still exist they are no longer as rigid. Instead, he wants all teams working towards a set of deliverables, believing that the best ideas and work can come from anywhere. That has meant, for instance, that advertising teams in Mexico can now create campaigns that are used across the globe, while the team in India can produce ads that are aired in the US.

“It’s a completely different way of working that allows us to leverage the scale of the organisation,” he says. 

That has also necessitated creating a new identity for the division. Its official name remains ‘international foods’ but Shamseldin ran a competition among the team to give them a new internal name (one that he is keeping for just his team for now), as well as tasking them with writing a one-pager on its purpose and how it works together that is used by the rest of the business.

To build the sense of team and identity, Shamseldin printed jerseys with the team name. And staff came together to write their own song on working in the division. 

“We were in Nashville, where Elvis [Presley] recorded some of his songs. We wrote the lyrics, then it was performed by the team. It was a surprise on the day to find we had a drummer and a guitarist, so we could actually perform it. We had no idea how it was going to turn out but we said ‘let’s just do it’ and it flowed,” he recalls.

Why transformation was necessary

While Shamseldin has spent his career in an operations role, this is his first global position. And he was aware that being in charge of such a large business unit spread across the globe could mean it could turn into a role where things didn’t get done. 

“I think every leader who comes to a role has their own philosophy,” he says. “When you come from an operating business, working together is what you need to do. I had never sat in a global role but I approached it with an operator mindset of getting things done. You can sit in a global role and think about a lot of nice ideas that never materialise. That was something we wanted to change.”

Change was also necessary because the way the world works is changing and the demands on companies to make a positive impact, not just a profit, are growing. That means everything – from how the company farms, to the products it sells, to the way it communicates – needs to change. But this needs to be done in a joined-up way.

I want to show what a global executive can do, regardless of where he comes from

Shamseldin sees having a positive impact as a “personal mission”. He was born in Egypt, where his grandfather was from a farming village, although he grew up in Abu Dhabi. Living in these two countries he had friends from all over the world, meaning he could see the impact of big businesses.

That makes him all the more keen to deliver on a vision for the future of food which is healthier and better for the planet. That could be through reduced sodium and saturated fat in some products, or adding wholegrains to others. There is also an opportunity to drive change through messaging, for example the work it does with Quaker in the UK to provide breakfast for underprivileged children. 

“It’s the biggest challenge but also the biggest opportunity: how we transform our brands and make sure we deliver on our vision of what the future of food should look like,” he says.

Leading a team through change

Shamseldin recognises that driving change through an organisation requires good leadership. The qualities he believes are critical are fairness, always being “crystal clear”, being organised and being clear on priorities. 

When he starts a new role, he has a document that he uses to explain who he is, his experience, how he likes to work and what he feels his role is. But the sign of a good leader, he believes, is not being the person who does the work but the person who creates the culture to enable good work to be done. 

That comes down to three things: having a clear strategy that is well communicated and understood; making sure the business has the right people, the right structure and the right resources; and what he calls “quality control” or being clear on what is being measured. For him and his team, the most critical measurement is business performance, although how they get to those results is up to them. 

“I’ll be judged on growth, on margin improvement, on how I’m transforming the portfolio. I get a bit surprised sometimes when marketers talk about campaigns and how they performed. That is execution, tactics. Marketers must be responsible for business objectives,” he says.

Shamseldin, however, is also judging himself on his impact and showing that no matter where someone is from, they can make a difference.

“I want to show what a global executive can do, regardless of where he comes from. To do that, I have to start with myself.”

Given his career, it’s clear Shamseldin has already proved that.