PepsiCo Inc's
beverage business should show improvement next year, its new head of beverages for the Americas said, as the company invests in its core drink brands and new products.

I'm optimistic that 2012 will show improvement, said Al Carey, chief executive of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, on Monday at an industry conference, in his first public presentation since taking the job in September.

Carey, a 30-year PepsiCo veteran who most recently ran its Frito-Lay North America unit, said the first part of his strategy was to invest in core brands, such as Pepsi-Cola, and make sure the company was innovating.

He also said PepsiCo would work to improve performance of Mountain Dew, continue research on new sweeteners, and take advantage of local marketing opportunities in addition to national campaigns.

PepsiCo recently shook up management of its beverages unit, as it works to turn around performance and narrow the gap between it and rival Coca-Cola Co .

Massimo d'Amore had run the Americas beverage business since November 2007. While d'Amore's tenure saw the launches of various lines of Gatorade and the lower-calorie Trop 50 juice drinks, he is often associated with a failed redesign of Tropicana Pure Premium juice packaging that was scrapped less than two months after its launch due to a plunge in sales.

PepsiCo Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi has worked to improve the health profile of PepsiCo's products by reducing the fat, sugar and sodium in many products and acquiring healthier products.

Some critics in the industry have charged her with not putting enough emphasis on the company's core business of soft drinks.

Carey said it was important to make products healthier, but also to continue focusing on so-called indulgent products. He said he was not embarrassed to be selling them.

I don't think we should demonize these products, Carey said.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; editing by Carol Bishopric)