2023 can be yr of ‘hope and focus’ for AI, says PepsiCo transformation chief

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Relating to synthetic intelligence (AI), the previous yr has been aspirational, however in the end unsuccessful, says Athina Kanioura, who was named PepsiCo’s first chief technique and transformation officer in September 2020. However she is optimistic about 2023. 

“Consider how we began with the metaverse and using AI, instantly it crumbled into items,” she advised VentureBeat. “In AI, we are likely to see what doesn’t work the primary time, then we lose hope — however I feel 2023 ought to be a yr of hope and focus for AI.” 

That features at PepsiCo, mentioned Kanioura, who joined the third-largest shopper packaged items (CPG) firm — with acquainted world manufacturers together with Pepsi, Lay’s, Cheetos, Quaker and Gatorade — after a dozen years at skilled providers agency Accenture. There, she served most lately because the agency’s chief analytics officer and world head of utilized Intelligence, to assist purchasers capitalize on AI at scale. 

PepsiCo, she defined, is “extraordinarily passionate” about AI and, when she joined, put statistical data, digital information and AI beneath one umbrella to develop the corporate “exponentially” and “drive a unique PepsiCo going ahead.” 


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That appears to be coming from the highest: Only a month in the past, in remarks accompanying the corporate’s third-quarter 2022 monetary outcomes, PepsiCo CEO, Ramon Laguarta, and chief monetary officer, Hugh Johnston, mentioned the corporate is concentrated on “automating and digitizing our provide chain to assist our innovation pipeline with better agility and speed-to-market.”

Athina Kanioura, chief technique and transformation officer, PepsiCo

Three key segments

AI at PepsiCo — from cognitive science and machine studying (ML) capabilities to information lakes and clouds— is organized inside what Kanioura calls a “human framework” and bucketed into three key segments.

One is using AI to reinforce the human expertise and facilitate what is going on on the bottom. For instance, PepsiCo makes use of AI monitoring for predictive asset upkeep, high quality and security of staff in factories, warehouses and distribution facilities.

“There are management towers, sensors of their gadgets, their equipment, to forestall security dangers for our staff, for high quality management and to forestall any injury to the elements,” she defined. “Via these AI techniques we defend worker well-being, and second, we give them visibility to how they will do their job extra effectively — so there’s an enormous significance for us from a provide chain and operations perspective.” 

PepsiCo additionally makes use of AI to speed up firm progress by figuring out “whitespace” when fascinated with new product classes — together with by analyzing shopper sentiment. 

“With the sort of information, in lower than a yr we created Off The Eaten Path seaweed snacks, which is definitely going properly,” she mentioned.

AI insights additionally confirmed that buyers had been focused on immunity, which led to Propel, with immunity-boosting elements, six months later.

“That is how you should utilize AI to drive the following technology of merchandise and progress,” she added. 

As well as, AI is used to spice up sustainability.

“AI is an integral a part of the longer term mission of the corporate, which is a constructive end result, a greater planet, for our staff, for our kids, for our communities,” she mentioned. 

For instance, as one of many largest potato producers on the earth (for manufacturers corresponding to Frito-Lay), PepsiCo makes use of AI to supply farmers in North America, Latin America and Europe with over one million key information factors concerning the potatoes they plant and supply insights about crops — corresponding to how deep seeds ought to be planted based mostly on climate circumstances, how a lot to water, easy methods to defend the crop and easy methods to optimize yields. 

“That has led to far more sustainable practices,” she mentioned. 

PepsiCo farming expertise

Digital hubs drive PepsiCo success

A yr in the past, PepsiCo established the corporate’s first two digital hubs in Barcelona, Spain and Dallas, Texas, and was anticipated to create greater than 500 information and digital jobs over the following couple of years, to “vastly affect the way in which the group reinvents planning, making, transferring, promoting and delivering merchandise.”  

On the time, PepsiCo mentioned the hubs would assist the corporate transfer towards a future imaginative and prescient of consumers by permitting professionals to have real-time entry to gross sales and stock information, constant product availability in the precise place, and staff would additionally be capable to use predictive decision-making instruments. 

However regardless of the place AI is used all through PepsiCo, Kanioura mentioned all staff function beneath the identical accountable AI framework. 

“We now have one accountable AI framework that everybody abides by, from how we design the techniques to how we enter the info, course of the fashions, audit the fashions whereas they run and at last to the post-processing,” she mentioned. “The rules apply to everybody inside my crew and we have now a committee that makes certain this course of is run in a constant approach throughout the group.” 

The way forward for AI at PepsiCo and past

Kanioura and different AI leaders at PepsiCo are lively in offering trade perspective and proposals to regulatory our bodies, together with the Congressional AI Caucus, NIST, she added. 

“What moral AI framework ought to be utilized, what are the processes and stipulations you want for a viable framework for a company, what’s the function of the trade versus the expertise supplier versus the federal government,” she mentioned. “I imagine in case you have totally different events…sitting collectively, this can be a profit to assembling a regulatory framework.” 

For PepsiCo, Kanioura emphasised that the mission of AI is to drive the following technology of progress for the corporate, however inside the context of human expertise. 

“I feel 2023 can be a yr after I count on to see additional consolidation, with far more concentrated investments in key areas of AI the place it will likely be helpful for the lots and throughout industries, fairly than futuristic capabilities,” she mentioned. “I feel the trade has realized we have to do issues the place everybody can profit — you hear that within the dialogue from most of the tech firms, they are saying let’s deal with the core of AI.” 

As well as, she mentioned that the way forward for AI at PepsiCo can be about scalability and industrialization. 

“For a few years we’ve achieved many experiments, many proof of ideas, as a result of some AI areas weren’t mature sufficient,” she mentioned. “Now, if we’re fascinated with AI for built-in enterprise planning, we’re doing it at scale. R&D will use it at scale.” 

It’s essential, she concluded, to take inventory of what has been a difficult yr general and rethink some AI methods.

“In 2023, there’s a big hope for what AI can do for society,” she mentioned. “We shouldn’t overlook about how throughout COVID-19, AI was used for precision drugs, and there’s a big hope for AI in precision agriculture, we’re utilizing it — it’s an incredible unlock of what AI can do.” 

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