How a snack empire stays fresh

Frito-Lay North America digitally empowers employees to delight customers
by Allison Leking
5-minute read

On an average day, Sam climbs into his delivery truck hours before sunrise and drives near and far to deliver, merchandise and sell snacks to large format retailers, convenience stores and neighborhood bodegas.

Sam is a frontline sales rep for Frito-Lay North America, the USD 18 billion convenient foods division of PepsiCo, Inc, known for iconic brands such as Cheetos, Doritos and Lay’s potato chips. With innovation built into its fabric, Frito-Lay is committed to constantly evolving its business to delight consumers.

Frontline sales employees service

300,000

retail stores weekly

e-commerce solution has

30,000

customers and growing

Long before hungry consumers rip into a bag of chips, an intricate process unfolds. In part, the process is complex because of the sheer volume of business that Frito-Lay operates. Annually, Frito-Lay uses enough potatoes, if stacked end to end, to reach the moon and back. The enterprise has 69,000 employees, of which 25,000 are frontline sales employees like Sam who service more than 300,000 retail stores weekly to replenish inventory, arrange displays and rotate stock to ensure freshness. Getting the right product to the right place at the right time is a formidable job. Moreover, consumers are increasingly demanding a mix of their old favorites intermingled with new, unique flavors.

It’s not like there’s a start and stop to this transformation. It’s a process. We’re on this journey and will continue as we evolve with our workforce.
Kevin Buehler
Senior Director, Snacks to You for Frito-Lay North America
Pile of potato chips

To optimize productivity across its systems and better service retailers of all sizes, Frito-Lay worked to centralize and modernize its tools with Salesforce. To ensure user adoption, the company engaged the user-focused experts from IBM Services® and IBM’s Salesforce practice, to expand its e-commerce strategy and create a new solution to streamline frontline employees’ workflows.

Modernized tools make for better experiences

Lay’s Classic potato chips are simple yet delicious, with only three ingredients: potatoes, oil and salt. Frito-Lay wanted a set of mobile-responsive tools for its employees and customers to engage with that would reflect this simplicity. Choosing to lead with a human-focused design approach, the IBM Garage™, team conducted nearly 1,500 hours of user research and created roughly 40 personas. IBM designers participated in immersive ride-alongs with Frito-Lay’s frontline employees (like Sam) and spent time interviewing managers and shadowing merchandisers. They learned how employees were truly using the tools and documented pain points that the new technology would need to solve. The team ranked and mapped every pain point to ensure that the transformation backlog was prioritized based on user and business value. Taking it a step further, the team of experts across IBM Garage and IBM iX® was able to calculate the financial impact of solving each pain point. Insight into each pain point’s ROI informed Frito-Lay’s decision about how to prioritize development.

Frito-Lay and IBM co-created two solutions built on the Salesforce platform. Snacks to You is an advanced e-commerce solution, and Sales Hub streamlines frontline-employee delivery routes and provides drivers and managers with an efficient mobile app to improve performance and visibility.

Woman shopping for chips

Innovation fuels transformation

Built on the Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Snacks to You allows smaller businesses such as bodegas and food trucks to order Frito-Lay snacks online. The e-commerce platform helps customers simplify their ordering and delivery process while providing them with more expansive product offerings. The app is fully integrated with Frito-Lay’s proprietary snacking insight AI engine, which means that it can use data-driven insights to make ordering suggestions based on seasonal preferences, regional trends and current events such as the Super Bowl. The platform can also predict when retailers’ inventory is low and recommend curated assortments. A dashboard shows historical data, predictive analytics and even a “snack score” that indicates how likely customers are to love a product.

Sales Hub, powered by Salesforce Service Cloud, unites the back office with the frontline, providing a seamless mobile experience for employees. Salesforce Field Service Lightning ensures routes are appropriately serviced and creates a fluid communication channel between the frontline and dispatch, giving drivers and merchandisers the ability to quickly adapt and redirect resources when issues arise. Geotagging automatically checks delivery drivers in and out of stores and can calculate mileage and recommend more efficient delivery routes. By tracking delivery status and timing, the app can alert employees to delays and therefore reduce downtime and waiting. The mobile app also provides helpful stocking instructions and planograms so that employees can make real-time adjustments to product inventory. Managers and employees can also access timesheets, make vacation requests and provide in-the-moment schedule adjustments.

Frito delivery man in a neighborhood bodegas
Frito delivery man in a neighborhood bodegas

The IBM Garage approach to digital transformation at Frito-Lay was successful because of the synergy between the two IBM Garage tracks: innovation and transformation. These tracks created the framework for researching and testing solutions across the business when solving for pain points from either the employee or customer perspective. To align innovation and transformation efforts and make sure everyone was working toward a common vision, the teams established “Golden Threads.” These were aspirational visions of user experiences that threaded through every aspect of the project. Working from this backlog of experiences, the innovation team would come up with ideas to solve the problem, bound by no restrictions, seeking the best technology for the need. Once validated with a working minimum viable product (MVP), the transformation squads would use scaled agile practices to quickly build, test and deploy the solution that best met users’ needs. The result was a beautiful user experience with clean architecture behind it.

An agile culture feeds Frito-Lay's future

Frito delivery man talking to a neighborhood bodega owner

To maintain its momentum and commitment to innovation, Frito-Lay has expanded the IBM Garage Methodology across the Frito-Lay organization. IBM Garage has helped fuel Frito-Lay’s transformation with meaningful innovation. Frito-Lay is now positioned to fully function in a virtual environment and quickly adapt to challenges that arise. Working virtually, the teams have kept the same routines, stand-up times and release schedules. Michael Lindsey, Chief Transformation and Strategy Officer for Frito-Lay, says: “By keeping that virtual cadence, but keeping it the same cadence that we had before, frankly, we haven’t missed a beat. If anything, we’ve accelerated.”

Snacks to You has 30,000 active customers and is growing, with the platform being utilized to flex and adapt to shifts in demand. Retailers experience fewer out-of-stock scenarios and expensive rush shipments, and they are able to choose new products to feature in their stores. Sales Hub provides Frito-Lay with real-time visibility into key operational and stocking metrics to drive field productivity and scheduling efficiencies. Sales Hub has been such a success that Frito-Lay is working with IBM to transfer its electronic handheld device functions — ordering, invoicing and warehouse management — into the app.

Frito-Lay’s transformation is just beginning. Kevin Buehler, the company’s Senior Director, Snacks to You, says: “It’s not like there’s a start and stop to this transformation. It’s a process. We’re on this journey and will continue as we evolve with our workforce.”

IBM Garage is built for moving faster, working smarter and innovating in a way that lets you disrupt disruption. Try virtual IBM Garage without charge.

Frito-Lay logo

About Frito-Lay North America

Based in Plano, Texas, Frito-LayExternal Link is a US subsidiary of PepsiCo Americas Foods and one of the largest manufacturers and marketers of snack foods. Its brand portfolio includes Lay’s, Ruffles, Doritos, Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos and Sunchips. Frito-Lay has annual revenues of approximately USD 18 billion and employs roughly 69,000 people.

Solution components
Frito-Lay logo

About Frito-Lay North America

Based in Plano, Texas, Frito-LayExternal Link is a US subsidiary of PepsiCo Americas Foods and one of the largest manufacturers and marketers of snack foods. Its brand portfolio includes Lay’s, Ruffles, Doritos, Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos and Sunchips. Frito-Lay has annual revenues of approximately USD 18 billion and employs roughly 69,000 people.

Solution components