Martin Glenn, the outgoing president of PepsiCo UK and Ireland, is often cited as the UK’s most powerful marketer – heading as he does a &£1.2bn business that includes the Walkers and Pepsi brands. But his profile has been raised still further by the leading role he has taken in the obesity debate – despite heading a portfolio of snack foods.
Concern over food advertising to children reached fever pitch in November 2003 when the Commons Health Select Committee called key marketers, including Glenn, and senior advertising executives to give evidence as part of its investigation into the issue. Following the publication of the committee’s findings and the Department of Health’s Public Health White Paper, which indicated that the Government would give the industry two years to act before it brought in legislation, the pressure was on the industry to act.
PepsiCo has responded with a number of initiatives, including the introduction of a “Under 100” logo on bags of crisps with less than 100 calories, and new products such as Walkers Potato Heads, a range of crisps that are lower in saturated fat and have no artificial flavourings.
Martin Paterson, deputy director-general of the Food and Drink Federation, says Glenn is “both erudite and subtle in his thinking” which is crucial when dealing with a complex issue like obesity. “To be able to participate positively with lobby groups and the Government when you are marketing snack food products is a difficult tight rope to walk but he did it.”
Now Glenn is leaving his post after 13 years without a job to go to and it is not yet clear what that means for his involvement in the debate. One industry insider says people are assuming his departure from PepsiCo will mean the end of his contribution, but that: “People involved in the obesity debate are committed to finding solutions to the issue.”
Glenn has been linked with the chief executive’s role on the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG). Such a position would offer him the chance to continue his role in the debate, but from the position of encouraging people to exercise more. It leaves a place for an aspiring food or drinks marketer to take the baton from Glenn. Industry observers suggest Walkers Snacks general manager Neil Campbell would be a strong candidate, rather than Glenn’s direct replacement Salman Amin, the company’s most senior international marketer. Campbell has worked with Glenn since 1998 and has been heavily involved with the better-for-you strategy that PepsiCo has implemented.
Beyond PepsiCo, industry experts suggest Britvic category director Andrew Marsden. He has a big enough profile and is sufficiently respected to handle the role, but many doubt Britvic would want the spotlight turned on its business. More of an outsider is United Biscuits UK marketing director Jon Eggleton, who has a strong marketing background but a low profile.
Although the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and the Food Advertising Unit (FAU) represent the views of the food and advertising industries respectively, observers believe there is still a need for individuals to speak up for the industry. FAU director Jeremy Preston says it is up to individual marketers to try to balance their company’s interests with the obesity issue, but adds that it is helpful for marketers who are tackling the issue to speak up.
“It helps to have someone like Glenn who is going to bring different angles to the debate,” says Preston.