Roger Enrico, who spent 30 years with PepsiCo before retiring in 2003, died June 1. He was 71. According to the Dallas Morning News, Enrico was snorkeling near his home in the Cayman Islands when he died.
A major part of Enrico’s legacy is his leadership at Pepsi during the “Cola Wars” of the 1980s, with Pepsi and Coca-Cola trying to top each other’s advertising campaigns. Enrico is credited with signing pop star Michael Jackson to promote Pepsi. He also penned a book, “The Other Guy Blinked,” in which he talked about how Pepsi sought to take advantage of Coke’s mistake in 1985, New Coke, that was advertised as being sweeter than Pepsi. Pepsi ran a newspaper ad welcoming the “New Pepsi Generation,” that was signed by Enrico.
After he retired from PepsiCo, Enrico was able to pursue his passion for the film and entertainment industries by serving as chairman for DreamWorks Animation (DWA.) During his tenure, the studio produced classics like “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda.”
A piece called “Remembering Roger Enrico” was posted to the PepsiCo website on June 2:
Over the course of 30+ years at PepsiCo, Roger Enrico grew from brash marketer to respected leader. He has the distinction of being the only PepsiCo Chairman & CEO to serve as CEO of all three major businesses, including restaurants. Roger combined a piercingly sharp business mind with a flair for the dramatic. He had the ability to instantly get to the heart of the matter and communicate in a way that was not only completely understandable, but totally memorable. Roger was in a class of his own.
He was born in 1944 in Chisholm, Minnesota, the son of a proud factory worker. Observing his father’s tireless work ethic and dedication to his job, Roger learned the value of frontline employees—a lesson that would remain with him throughout his career and life. He left his home state after high school for Massachusetts, where he received an ROTC scholarship to Babson College and became the first in his family to attend college. Roger Enrico was on his way.
After graduation, Roger fulfilled his service to the country in the U.S. Navy, where he deployed to Vietnam in the Supply Corps. His duties included transporting fuel, or what he later referred to as “my first experience delivering precious liquids.” Roger thrived in the military and while serving, admired his commanding officers’ resourcefulness, their challenging of the status quo, and their willingness to break the rules to get things done. Additional lessons he would adapt in his career and life.
During his military service, Roger made his best decision ever and asked his childhood sweetheart to marry him. Rosemary Margo accepted to become Roger’s wife, partner and confidant, and the two remained inseparable for over 40 years. Their family expanded with son Aaron, and eventually daughter-in-law Catie and three grandchildren (Danny, and twins Gigi and Joey).
After returning from Vietnam, Roger returned to Minnesota for a job at General Mills. His success there quickly attracted the attention of Frito-Lay, where he was offered a position as brand manager for Funyuns. In typical Roger fashion, he turned a humble start into meaningful results, earning an assignment leading Frito-Lay’s business in Japan.
Success in Japan was followed by a posting to Brazil, this time running the Pepsi-Cola business, continuing to deliver impressive results. His longtime mentor Don Kendall next tapped Roger to take charge of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Group marketing in Purchase, and shortly afterwards to take Pepsi’s helm at the unprecedented age of 38.
Pepsi, PepsiCo and the beverage world would never be the same again. Roger’s innovative and no-holds-barred approach to the soft drink business re-wrote the rule book and upended the competition. Under the compelling banner “The Choice of a New Generation,” Roger dynamically re-positioned Pepsi as the wildly preferred beverage for enthusiastic consumers. His courage, creativity and tenacity also won the respect and affection of bottlers who loved his open mindedness and decisiveness. The entire business world admired him and his actions became the stuff of b-school case studies.
In the early 1990s, Wayne Calloway asked him to engineer a desperately needed turn-around at Frito-Lay. In short order, he developed a blueprint for the snack food giant to “Take Back the Streets,” and set the company on a path to success that continues today. Later as PepsiCo Chairman & CEO, he would turn his attention to the company’s restaurant business and lead the strategically sound but nonetheless difficult decision to spin off a line of business that helped define PepsiCo and contributed significantly to its success. The decision enabled PepsiCo to flourish by focusing on its core CPG businesses and created the shining star restaurant company known as YUM! In other transformative moves as Chairman & CEO, he engineered the acquisition of Tropicana, Quaker Oats and Gatorade.
Consistently along the way, Roger dedicated himself to instilling a culture built on development and recognition. He devoted considerable time to mentoring talent—including creating a Leadership Development program whose graduates still point to the experience as a defining career moment. He established PepsiCo’s first frontline recognition program, the “Ring of Honor,” which continues to celebrate and reward hundreds of plant workers and route drivers from across the globe every year. He also gave generously to employees and their children, offering scholarships and opportunities like he was afforded starting out. Roger never forgot where he came from, or to give back.
Following his PepsiCo retirement in 2003, Roger fulfilled a lifelong passion for the film and entertainment industries by serving as Chairman for DreamWorks Animation (DWA.) During his tenure, the studio produced blockbuster classics including “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda,” to name a few. DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg calls Roger “an invaluable voice during a pivotal time in the growth and evolution of our company.”
Roger also served as a board member of the National Geographic Society, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the American Film Institute, in addition to numerous philanthropic, civic and cultural activities throughout his life.
Roger was an incomparable leader and his legacy will stand the test of time. He left PepsiCo far better than he found it.
President and CEO, PepsiCo Beverages and Foods, 1983–86
CEO, PepsiCo Worldwide Beverages, 1987–91
Chairman and CEO, Frito-Lay, 1991–93
Chairman and CEO, Worldwide Foods, 1993-94
Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo Worldwide Restaurants, 1994–95
Vice Chairman, PepsiCo, 1995-96
Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, 1996–2001;
Chairman, PepsiCo, 2001-03
One of Enrico’s quotes: “In really good companies, you have to lead. You have to come up with big ideas and express them forcefully.”