20 Questions with Seth Kaufman, MBA '01

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–BY LISA KISER


Seth Kaufman, MBA ’01, has already biked up and over some of the world's biggest mountains, but now the head of PepsiCo's North American nutrition business is facing what could be his most demanding climb yet: outpacing growth records for some of the most iconic nutrition brands on the planet.

“I'm excited to continue honing our ability to connect and engage with very nutrition-forward consumers,” says Kaufman, who — as PepsiCo’s new President, North America Nutrition — is responsible for brands like Quaker, Tropicana, Naked Juice, and KeVita, among others.

“Data-informed influencer outreach, always-on content, and a TRUE two-way dialogue are just a few things that will help us deliver against the needs of our consumers, who are much more knowledgeable about how our products are made and distributed than most other consumers.”

He sees many opportunities for healthy growth: “My team and I are focused on developing an integrated growth strategy, including stepped-up efforts to further strengthen our portfolio and bring new innovation to market, while also focusing on expanding distribution and retail penetration of our nutrition brands.”

Seth is hungry to take nutrition to the next level. But is he biting off more than he can chew with our 20 Questions?

  1. What’s a book that you’ve read recently? How was it?
    Etape: 20 Great Stages from the Modern Tour de France — it was phenomenal!
     
  2. First album/CD you bought?
    Styx: Kilroy was Here.
     
  3. What’s most played on your smartphone?
    Hamilton...basically every single day.
     
  4. What’s the most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
    Skydiving. I’ve done it three times...and only three times because the parachute didn't really open the way it was supposed to that last time. It finally did...but not before falling much lower than I was supposed to. So yes, that was the FINAL time!
     
  5. Who is your personal hero?
    JFK, to whom I think we can attribute one of the first truly memorable "big hairy audacious goals" when he said "WE CHOOSE TO GO TO THE MOON!"
     
  6. Best business decision?
    Deciding to resource and massively accelerate the innovation agenda on our Starbucks ready-to-drink coffee portfolio.
     
  7. What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
    Always, always, always put people first.
     
  8. The thing you learned in business school that you’ll never forget?
    Finance and accounting MATTER!
     
  9. What are your go-to Pepsimojis?
    The five Pepsimojis that represent my family...a bike for me, yoga pose for my wife, ballet slippers for my oldest, and the twin dancers for my twins.
     
  10. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
    To make a massively positive impact on my team while creating an entire growth portfolio of products my kids are proud their dad makes.
     
  11. Unfulfilled wish?
    Cycling up and over all of the most famous mountains in Europe — so far I've done most of the French Alps and French Pyrenees, but I’ve got many more ranges to go.
     
  12. First website you access in the morning?
    My Twitter feed comes first, for my personally curated most important stories.
     
  13. Business or charity you wish more people knew about?
    Immune Deficiency Foundation, which is the national nonprofit patient organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis, treatment, and quality-of-life of persons with Primary Immune Deficiency (PI). PI are a group of more than 300 rare, chronic disorders in which part of the body’s immune system is missing or functions improperly. 
     
  14. Favorite comfort food?
    My wife's beef stew from the slow cooker.
     
  15. If you had a theme song, what would it be?
    "Non-Stop" from Hamilton.
     
  16. Best trophy or award you’ve ever won?
    I have been fortunate enough that there have been a couple for mentorship or people leadership and those are (BY FAR) the best!
     
  17. Most influential Ross professor?
    Gerald Meyers, who taught all of us how to truly lead through crises.
     
  18. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
    Shortstop for the NY Yankees.
     
  19. Must-have app on your phone?
    Waze.
     
  20. Favorite place to enjoy a Pepsi?
    On the beach. Hate to say it, but it might be an Aquafina first!

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

We asked Seth a few additional questions for our online audience.
 

  1. Three people, living or dead, you’d like to have dinner with?
    Alexander Hamilton, JFK, and Michelle Obama.
     
  2. Who is today’s most influential business leader?
    Jeff Bezos (yesterday's, today's, and most likely tomorrow's most influential business leader).
     
  3. Most important room in your home?
    Our family room...especially on really cold Saturdays or Sundays with either Michigan or the Giants playing football while my wife, my three daughters, and I hang by the blazing fire!
     
  4. Most-cherished Ross experience?
    Learning from my brilliant and fantastic classmates. 
     
  5. What do you miss most about Ann Arbor?
    The Big House!
     
  6. What aspects of your Ross education prepared you for your current role?
    Working with people from different backgrounds who have different experiences and different styles.