PepsiCo products seem to appear everywhere. Its soft drinks, snacks, juices, and even baby products have made the company the world’s second biggest beverage and snack producer.
The company has also established solid holdings in Ukraine and owns three production sites here: two in Mykolaiv and one in Kyiv.
But doing business in Ukraine can prove to be challenging, even for a giant like PepsiCo.
While the government has taken steps to tackle endemic corruption, the progress is far from complete, and a lack of transparency, harassment by customs officials, opaque regulations and a dysfunctional justice system make Ukraine a challenging market.
Marek Tomalak, who was appointed PepsiCo’s manager in Ukraine in June 2019, told the Kyiv Post about his views on the brand’s position in Ukraine and his vision for the future.
Canadian-born Tomalak, 38, came to PepsiCo Ukraine with experience in the region. He’s worked in Eastern Europe for 14 years, including in Poland, Russia and Ukraine.
“Ukraine is catching up, growing very fast (in terms of) the level of consumption that Poland has seen,” he said, adding there is a huge potential for growth here.
When considering PepsiCo’s future in Ukraine, Tomalak makes sure to consider big-picture factors and says the key drivers are “the growth of income, which we observe now very rapidly, the frequency of purchase and the new products the consumers buy” like non-sugary drinks.
The company’s long-term vision is one of the reasons for PepsiCo’s success, says Tomalak.
“The key thing for us is to make sure that the company is sustainable, which means making sure that the products meet high-quality standards, including modern features like non-sugar products and that the team we have has good skills and stays with the company.”
The other fundamental pillar is business conduct the executive says.
“We always aim to create a stable, transparent and principle-based workplace for our employees so they know what to expect, they know what the business demands from them and what the reward is for their work. And we operate in an extremely fair way.”
This code of conduct mandates that employees are paid fairly and regularly trained for professional skills.
“The Ukrainian market is very dynamic, there are many companies growing, and given that talent is scarce, we try to develop our own talent in-house,” Tomalak said.
It might be this approach that led the Top Employers Institute to award PepsiCo Ukraine’s top foreign employer of 2019.
Another thing that helps, according to Tomalak, is the trust he puts in his employees.
“When you have trust, you reduce the transactions, you reduce the amount of checking and verification, the bureaucracy, you make things faster and you rely on the other partner to do their part,” he said. “There are many great partners in Ukraine that recognize that, so I’m very positive that (this approach) will be adopted across industries.”
At the end of the day, when asked about the company’s strategy for success in Ukraine, Tomalak said it’s largely about talented people who can adapt to different situations and stay committed as well as a great brand and the company’s strong code of conduct.
“That’s how we managed to survive,” he said.