MINNEAPOLIS — If food companies think there are big challenges feeding today’s world and its 7.3 billion people, even bigger problems face them in the future, said Mehmood Khan, M.D., Ph.D., vice-chairman and chief scientific officer of global research and development at PepsiCo, Inc., Purchase, N.Y. He gave the keynote address at AACC International’s centenary meeting in Minneapolis on Oct. 20.
Speaking to an audience of cereal scientists, millers and ingredient suppliers, Dr. Khan offered his reasons for describing innovation as the answer.
“If we continue doing in 2050 what we do today, 3.5 billion people will be hungry,” he said. “The world is depending on the food industry to feed the planet. If not, even with today’s high level of conflict, we haven’t yet seen what can result when that many mouths go hungry.”
A decade ago, when PepsiCo chairman and chief executive officer Indra Nooyi recruited Dr. Khan, he was charged with changing the R.&D. climate at the company. It boosted its budget for such work by 30% but was quickly plunged into the worldwide financial crisis. PepsiCo’s stock plunged, but the company persevered.
“By 2013, net revenues from innovation accounted for 8% in sales,” Dr. Khan said. “In 2014, it was 9%. Any declines we had in traditional brands were more than offset by these innovations.”
In addition, PepsiCo products accounted for 10 of the Top 50 new products that year.
He advised his audience of scientists, “If you want to make a difference, you have to step out of the norm.”
PepsiCo did that when it hired Dr. Khan. He trained in medicine first and entered agronomy later. He received his medical degree, specializing in endocrinology, from University of Liverpool and his doctorate in agriculture…