PepsiCo is using reformulation and the development of healthier brands to strengthen its health and wellness agenda, a leading company nutritionist has indicated.

Describing PepsiCo as a “business in transition”, PepsiCo Europe nutrition director Sue Gatenby told the UK’s Food and Drink Federation’s biscuit, cake, chocolate and confectionery sector group annual conference that the maker of Quaker oats and Walkers crisps is a “business in transition”.

The company has focused its innovation and R&D pipeline on reformulating its existing products and developing healthier brands since the establishment of concrete targets under the group’s Performance with Purpose programme, Gatenby said.

Working from a 2006 baseline, PepsiCo has targeted a 25% cut in sodium by 2015 and a 15% reduction in saturated fat by 2020 across its key global brands, as well as a 25% reduction in the sugar content of its global beverage brands by 2020. The group has also signalled its intention to increase the amount of wholegrain, fruits, vegetables, nuts seeds and low fat dairy in its global portfolio.

This agenda is “really driving product development, renovation and innovation” now that the company has fixed targets to work to, Gatenby revealed. “By 2020 our business will be based on delivering fruits, vegetables and wholegrain.”

PepsiCo is working to achieve this aim by reformulating its core products, developing healthier products and acquiring healthier brands, such as Tropicana, and last October the US food and drink giant set up a “global nutrition group” to “deliver breakthrough innovation” in fruit and vegetables, grains, dairy and functional foods.

Looking at PepsiCo’s “ambitious” reformulation agenda, Gatenby said that the group aimed for 50% of its savoury snacks to be baked and contain “some positive nutrition” by 2015, up from 10% currently. Also by 2015, PepsiCo plans to have implemented a 160 calorie cap for single-serve savoury snacks.

“That is a challenge for the business and, if I’m honest, we are really struggling. We still have a few years yet but it is taking every NPD resource that we have,” she revealed. “These challenges are meant to be stretching. Whilst I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t deliver on them all, I think that is an indication of how stretching they are.”