Born in the small town of Chisholm to Italian immigrants, Mr. Enrico won a scholarship to Babson College in Massachusetts, studying business administration, before enlisting in the Navy. He served in Vietnam, whereas a lowly ensign he said he convinced an admiral to build a fuel pipeline instead of flying in supplies, only for the pipeline to be repeatedly blown up.
After a stint as assistant brand manager for Wheaties at General Mills Inc., Mr. Enrico joined chips-and-soda giant PepsiCo in 1971, initially helping market Funyans, an onion-flavored snack. He quickly was promoted to brand manager for Cheetos and then Fritos, before heading the company’s operations in Japan and then South America.
He made a bigger splash after becoming chief executive of Pepsi-Cola USA in 1983 at the age of 38. The same year he struck a multimillion-dollar marketing deal with pop sensation Mr. Jackson to become the face of the brand—and headline news in 1984 when the singer’s hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi TV commercial.
He also was known for seeking out opinions from PepsiCo plant workers, a practice inspired by his father, who complained bosses never took him up on his offers of free advice.
“Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas, especially the guy with the initials CEO,” Tod MacKenzie, a former PepsiCo corporate affairs manager, recalls Mr. Enrico telling him
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