As CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America, Steven Williams leads an $18 billion snack and convenient foods business that includes Frito-Lay North American and Quaker Foods North America.
How are you coping amid the COVID-19 crisis?
“I’m amazed at the agility and resilience of our company during this unprecedented time. Ensuring our products get to where they need to be has been more challenging, and the dynamics are constantly changing, but having products on shelves for consumers is imperative for us. Our manufacturing sites are running 24/7, and we believe we have operations processes in place to help keep up with demand. We are also taking an abundance of caution every step of the way and ensuring that our employees feel safe coming into work and have the flexibility they need.
Retailers are the direct line to our consumers who are purchasing our products. They are facing new obstacles just as we are, and they need to know we are here for them, that they will have our product on shelves and are up-to-date on how we’re adjusting our operations to serve them better, so together we can provide the best service to our consumers.”
Have you found any silver linings?
“Through all of this, I am inspired by our people, who continue to come together for the greater good. We’ve seen tremendous efforts take place across the entire PepsiCo organization. Our teams continue to deliver unparalleled service to meet consumer demand. We are especially grateful to our frontline associates–the ones who make and deliver our products across the country. They are the backbone of our organization, and we appreciate the role they play in maintaining America’s food supply. PepsiCo is providing enhanced leave and benefits to all U.S.-based employees and additional compensation for frontline employees. In addition, we’re hiring roughly 6,000 full-time frontline associates across the country in the coming months.”
Do you have advice for other local companies?
“The safety of people, consumers, and the community must remain a top priority. We’re operating in an unprecedented climate that we haven’t experienced before. We must ensure that employees feel safe, supported, and have the resources they need to feel comfortable coming to work in this dynamic environment. Although companies are facing different scenarios, communication is key, and maintaining an open dialogue with people can go a long way as we navigate the situation together.
Additionally, I firmly believe we all have a responsibility to serve our community. During this time of crisis, it’s critical that the private and public sectors join together to provide assistance and aid to the most vulnerable. We are working with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and local partners to identify highly concentrated areas of need across the area as part of our Southern Dallas Thrives community initiative. In addition, our PepsiCo Food for Good team is delivering meals and products across the region, and the PepsiCo Foundation is providing a grant to enable mobile testing at Parkland Memorial Hospital. We are also looking for ways to give back to area responders, such as providing containers to a local distillery that has started making hand sanitizer.
Beyond our local efforts, the PepsiCo Foundation is mobilizing its resources to invest millions to provide vital support to communities affected by COVID-19 around the world, including nutritious meals. We are working closely with peers, suppliers, customers, and other leading foundations to identify joint impact investing programs that can expand and sustain access to critical nutrition resources for families affected by COVID-19.
In the U.S., PepsiCo’s efforts focus primarily on increasing access to nutrition for out-of-school children—as an anticipated 22 million children receive low-cost or free meals via the country’s National School Lunch Program every day. The company is also funding protective gear for healthcare workers in the U.S., investing in testing and screening services, and providing financial support for U.S. restaurant workers who are experiencing joblessness.”