March 29, 2023  

How an R&D leader is perfecting PepsiCo’s food recipes

Get a glimpse at how Mariana Martino is cooking up new ways to offer consumers positive choices for the planet and people.

Few people have studied a potato chip as closely as Mariana Martino. She can tell you how to keep Ruffles perfectly crisp and she knows the secret to the signature cheesy zest of Cheetos. As an R&D Ingredients and Product Development Manager, her role is to help understand what makes a recipe a success, something that is equal parts art and analysis. She’s tapping into skills that she’s developed most of her life. "Since I was a kid, I was very interested in how things worked," Mariana says.

That curiosity led her to PepsiCo where she develops recipes and explores ingredients that will offer consumers the flavors they expect while also reducing sodium and saturated fat. "I’ve eaten PepsiCo products all my life and having the chance to work with them and improve their nutritional profile is very exciting," Mariana says. And she’s directly impacting the company’s pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) transformation to offer Positive Choices for consumers that are better for the planet and people.

I’ve eaten PepsiCo products all my life and having the chance to work with them and improve their nutritional profile is very exciting.


Making these nutrition changes to the food recipes requires technical expertise and a balancing act, she explains. "I don't want to impact flavors," Mariana says. "I want it to have the same flavor, as it’s an iconic product that consumers love." So a key part of her process means she also must think about maintaining the freshness, quality and food safety of each iteration, which can be impacted when shifting to a lower fat oil, for example.

Evolving PepsiCo’s recipes to offer more Positive Choices requires qualities any chef can appreciate — attention to detail and plenty of patience. The recipes, Mariana explains, involve extensive testing before they are reviewed by nutritional expert panels and trialing with consumers. All of this can take years before Mariana’s work will appear on store shelves.

Mariana says every step of the process is worth it. "It's important to give our consumer Positive Choices,” she says. "Food connects people. Food is a moment of pleasure." And seeing how her role plays a part in the larger picture of PepsiCo’s goals is also satisfying. "PepsiCo Positive is the way I work — caring for the people, caring for the planet and caring for the products."