NEW YORK (AP) — PepsiCo Inc. said Thursday that it will create a new position to oversee its Gatorade and Tropicana brands in North America, marking the company's latest push to build up its core brands.
The Purchase, N.Y.-based company named Debra Crew, who currently heads its Western European business, to president of PepsiCo Americas Beverages. Crew will also be in charge of the Latin America beverage unit, as well as smaller brands such as Naked and Izze.
Crew will report to Al Carey, who was named to CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages last fall. Carey will still have direct responsibility for the company's soda business.
In February, PepsiCo declared that it would "reset" its business this year, in large part by strengthening flagship brands such as Gatorade and Tropicana. The company is also stepping up marketing for its namesake soda, which has lost market share to The Coca-Cola in the U.S. in recent years. In March, the company revamped its management structure.
PepsiCo also said Thursday that Sarah Robb O'Hagan, who served as president of Gatorade since 2011, is leaving the company. A replacement wasn't named for O'Hagan, who will become president of Equinox fitness club.
Although soda sales have been flagging in recent years, sports drinks have remained an important growth area for PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, which owns Powerade.
John Sicher, editor of the industry tracker Beverage Digest, noted that PepsiCo in recent years has expanded Gatorade from a beverage line to a broader "sports nutrition business." Although O'Hagan was well regarded for her leadership, Sicher said her departure gives PepsiCo a chance to take a fresh look at the brand.
Gatorade remains the market leader in sports drinks, but Powerade has been gaining; last year, Gatorade volume was up 2.4 percent, while Powerade's rose 9.7 percent.
After disappointing sales, PepsiCo also plans to pull its low-calorie Gatorade Fit from the shelves after this year. The line will be revamped and relaunched in 2014.