One of the world's leading food and beverage companies has decided to lead in a bold new way: creating PepCoin, the CPG industry's first program to reward loyalty with direct cash payments — totally independent of the retailer.


Salty and sweet. It’s a pairing that’s universally loved — and it’s where PepsiCo saw an opportunity to encourage a new buying behavior. Their goal was to boost bundled purchases of Pepsi beverages and Frito-Lay snacks. 

They envisioned an interactive, mobile experience for customers that would reward them for their loyalty and continued purchases. PepsiCo chose Hathway for our winning track record of using technology to elevate the customer experience.


When you’re going somewhere you’ve never been, it’s time to try things you’ve never tried before. The challenge at hand posed several deep operational questions that required innovative, collaborative thinking between Hathway and PepsiCo — and a “Why not?” approach:

  • Is it possible to create a loyalty rewards program with no connection to the POS platform and no receipt?
  • Can we overcome the risk of fraud?
  • Can we avoid unique packaging printing and save operation costs?
  • Can we create a frictionless experience — or maybe even a “wow” experience — that delivers cash rewards without feeling like a chore?

Once these questions surfaced, we quickly decided that incorporating machine learning was going to be the path to “yes.”


Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning technology served as the baseline for bringing the vision to life. Because each SKU across the brands already had a unique identifier — i.e., Pepsi cap codes and Frito-Lay bellmarks — the key would be to give the user a way to scan them instantly. 

And for Hathway, it presented an opportunity that played right into our never-ending quest to keep creating Ever Better Experiences™.


With the flag in the sand now visible, Hathway interviewed stakeholders at PepsiCo and Frito-Lay to fully understand the milestones along the way. We then came together to map out the entire customer experience — all the way from the initial sign-up through scanning products, bundling Frito-Lay and Pepsi products together, awarding points, and distributing payouts through either Venmo or PayPal.

The scanning process itself went through multiple iterations. It needed to account for all the ways people might position a snack bag or a bottle cap for a photo. There could be a glare or a crinkled bag or a bottle cap that’s positioned sideways or still has soda droplets on it, for example. That’s where machine learning kicked in: Every photo taken through PepCoin teaches the scanner how to get better and better at recognizing the data it needs to process.


Cash back for enjoying snacks and beverages has proven to be a popular idea. Strong user acquisition keeps driving more scans (scanner usage is above 80% among users) — which, in turn, improves machine learning and makes the experience better and better.


That means its current use case is just the beginning. Now that PepsiCo has a way to track individual purchases, the potential applications go way beyond PepCoin. Stay tuned!


  • Machine learning integration
  • PayPal and Venmo payment integration
  • UX/UI strategy and design
  • Responsive web and mobile development
  • SessionM loyalty program integration
  • Customer experience strategy
  • Content strategy
  • Product strategy and planning
  • User testing and validation