Steven Williams joined PepsiCo Foods in 1997 to work with the Quaker and Gatorade Brands in Oklahoma and Arkansas. By the time he was named CEO of PepsiCo Foods in 2019, he had held 14 different roles with the organization. The promotion put him in charge of the North American operations of both Frito-Lay and Quaker Foods, a combined $21 billion operation.
The company’s Plano-based foods division currently has 42 brands, most of which have myriad variations. Six brands generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue each—Lay’s, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostitos, Ruffles, and Quaker. Dozens more, including Fritos, rake in more than $500 million a year. As CEO, Williams oversees nearly 70,000 employees and is responsible for everything from “seed to shelf.”
In his extended 2023 Dallas 500 Q&A, Williams talks about learning new skills, bold risk-taking, and more.
Education: University of Central Oklahoma (BA)
Pivotal Moment: “When PepsiCo acquired the Quaker Oats Company, where I was working at the time, I transitioned to a new business after spending nearly five years learning a different one. My father always told me, ‘Your attitude will determine your altitude.’ This simple phrase is always a reminder when I’m faced with adversity or something unexpected. I embraced the challenges, worked to deliver results, and earned roles with increased responsibility within PepsiCo. Remembering, and applying, the advice of my father has been essential in journey to CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America.”
Destination of Choice: “Our family loves to travel. When our kids were 10 and 12 (now, more than 10 years ago), my wife Christy as well as our children, Lauren and Jacob, and I started doing these memory building vacations (versus just going to the beach). We would do epic trips around the holidays. One year, for example, we spent Christmas in London and New Year’s Eve in Paris. Another year we spent Christmas in Rome (The Vatican on Christmas Day was amazing) and New Year’s Eve in Venice. These trips have become a holiday tradition. We also always make the journey a couple of times a year to Southern California and Telluride, Colorado—two of our favorite destinations.”
Key Leadership Strategy: “I believe history favors the bold, so a leadership strategy I value most is having bold thinking and taking bold actions.”
Walk-up Song: “My go-to theme song for years has been ‘All I Do is Win’ by DJ Khaled. At Frito-Lay, we obsess over our consumers and winning in the marketplace to bring them the best-tasting snacks and food items and so winning with them is top of mind in all I do, every day.”
Spirit Animal: “It would be a falcon. Falcons represent boldness and seeing the bigger picture, both of which resonate with my leadership style. Falcons are also observant, aware of self and the environment, and strong.”
Local Fare: “You can’t beat going to Town Hearth and having our favorite waiter Tim take care of us with exceptional service, a great steak, and some red wine.”
Alternate Reality: “I would be a coach. My personal leadership philosophy is built on an acronym of qualities I apply throughout my career to achieve results—spelling out COACH: Courageous, Open, Agile, Consistent, Humble.”
First Car: “My first car was a 1972 Dodge Charger—fire red in color!”
Future Forecast: “I’m excited to work in partnership with our associates as we continue to grow and innovate our PepsiCo Foods North America portfolio to meet consumer demand and always be everywhere our consumers shop.”