November 17, 2022  

Tracking 20 billion data points for PepsiCo consumers

Information gathered from farm to shelf helps Manus Mitchell and his team ensure PepsiCo foods and beverages meet the highest quality standards.

An epiphany struck Manus Mitchell as he considered the published Ph.D. thesis he had just spent the last four years of his life researching. While he didn’t have any regrets about developing an expertise on the structures of novel metallic small molecule compounds, he also couldn’t help but wonder: “Is anyone really going to use this information?”

That question ultimately led Manus to pursue a career at PepsiCo. “There was a real attraction for me to move out of academia and into food and beverage, because you can actually see the outcome of your work on store shelves,” he explains. “Twenty-five years at PepsiCo — and counting — has supported that being the right decision for me.”

In that pivot from the theoretical, Manus joined PepsiCo to apply his skills in a practical way as a member of the Quality Assurance team. With the mission to deliver the highest quality foods and beverages to consumers around the world, he’s overseen projects that directly impact products that reach store shelves. When Aquafina launched in the United Arab Emirates, he ensured no bottle left the facility until precise purification standards were met. He once spent long nights at a bottling center in Mexico designing and testing a system to clean recycled glass.

Manus using a water tap to pour water into a cup.

Manus Mitchell at a food facility in Bogotá, Colombia.

“Learning those little details is the best way to understand the business,” says Manus, who is based in Cork, Ireland. “But ultimately, you can add more value by stepping back and mapping out a new path forward.” In his current role as PepsiCo’s Director of Global Quality Transformation, Manus is combining scientific rigor with big picture thinking as the team designs, digitalizes and deploys all the quality logistics it oversees from farm to shelf.

Central to those digitalization efforts is Lighthouse, a digital platform PepsiCo’s R&D Digital Engineering department built to be a hub for the more than 20 billion quality and food safety data points being collected through every step of the company’s global operations — ingredient sourcing, food cooking, beverage flavoring, product packaging, market performance, consumer feedback, and everything in between. Manus earned the nickname “Lighthouse keeper” from his colleagues for his methodical oversight of data selection and organization — a process he says was the perfect intersection of his thirst for knowledge and passion for collaboration.

In the past, Manus says, it might have taken someone days or even weeks to track down and process all the data needed to build a report about a facility’s performance. Now, it can be done in a matter of minutes. “That gives us more time to actually action the data — either drill down to the root cause of issues or reinforce positive practices,” he says. That means PepsiCo always has the insights to make sure Pepsi has the perfect fizz and Cheetos are precisely coated in Cheetle.

We should be completely uncompromising in terms of delivering the best possible foods and beverages to our consumers every day.


One goal has guided Manus’ team as they sifted through those billions of data points: providing world-class foods and beverages for consumers. “Being consumer centric is at the forefront of everything we do,” he explains. “Consumers have many choices, so ultimately, they decide what is quality and what is not. That’s why we should be completely uncompromising in terms of delivering the best possible foods and beverages to our consumers every day.”

Manus says that watching a consumer take a PepsiCo product off the shelf at his local grocery store is a testament that he’s done his job well. But he feels most rewarded when his kids open a bottle of Gatorade or grab a bag of Walkers Crisps. “Ultimately, quality means delivering on PepsiCo’s mission of creating smiles with every sip and every bite,” Manus says. “It’s been fabulous being on the cutting edge and leading the way in our industry.”