With a passion for purpose-driven marketing and a commitment to making a positive impact, Shehani Liyanage, Global Marketing Director – BlueBand & Regional Operations Lead AMEA & ANZ – Upfield, has played a pivotal role in propelling BlueBand (known as Astra in Sri Lanka) to new heights within the Upfield portfolio. As a seasoned professional, her influence extends beyond traditional marketing strategies, encompassing innovative initiatives that not only drive growth but also address societal needs.


Shehani, the driving force behind BlueBand’s purpose-driven marketing, passionately emphasizes the brand’s commitment to inculcate the habit of good breakfast in 100 million kids by 2030. BlueBand distinguishes itself as a purpose-driven brand, making a positive impact on both businesses and communities. As one of Upfield’s fastest-growing power brands, BlueBand focuses on providing the right health and nutrition to children globally. The brand adheres to a single global formulation across markets, aligning with World Health Organization standards, incorporating essential Omega 3 & 6 good fats and vital vitamins for children’s growth and development.


In 2023/24, Shehani directed a transformative initiative—the Good Breakfast Program. Recognizing a universal challenge that children often skip breakfast, the program aims to instill the habit of a balanced breakfast through education and motivation. A significant insight derived from a Sri Lankan research study also revealed that 90% of children consume a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast, lacking the necessary balance of good fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and carbs. Understanding the critical role of a balanced breakfast in children’s energy levels, alertness, and school performance, Shehani activated the Good Breakfast Program intending to reach 100 million children by 2030.


This impactful program operates online and offline, engaging with children and parents in schools and communities across various markets, including Kenya, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and the Netherlands. The 21-day offline engagement includes a daily breakfast diary to facilitate habit formation. The program extends support to parents through daily SMS reminders, school teacher notices, and a dedicated online game where kids learn about the nutritional value and benefits of a good breakfast through superhero-themed gameplay. As of 2023, the program has already reached an impressive 23.8 million children, with plans for a 2024 continuation across all markets.


Beyond the immediate impact on children’s nutrition, BlueBand, as a purposeful brand, integrates Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles. Local sourcing of ingredients enhances community livelihoods, and the brand employs 100% sustainably sourced plant oils across most markets. Additionally, a commitment to environmental sustainability is evident through the use of 100% recyclable plastic tubs, and Upfield is actively transitioning from plastic to paper packaging, starting with the Flora brand in European markets. This holistic approach underscores BlueBand’s dedication to making a positive impact on both a global scale and within the local communities it serves. As Shehani envisions the future, the brand is poised to continue its trajectory of purpose-driven marketing, setting the stage for even greater achievements and positive contributions in the years to come.


As the global brand director, Shehani holds the responsibility for strategic innovation planning until 2030, ensuring the successful execution of these innovative initiatives. While maintaining confidentiality, she draws insights from a recent innovation in Indonesia, BlueBand’s largest market globally, reflecting her role in spearheading new product launches and driving growth through innovation.




Rather than launching a completely new brand, Shehani opted for a sub-brand approach, leveraging BlueBand’s established memory structures and brand power. Budget constraints on advertising and promotion further emphasized the need for a carefully crafted strategy. Croma’s innovation included a new product with a sweet umami flavour profile, catering specifically to West Java’s regional cuisine, and differentiating itself from both BlueBand and competitor products.


Shehani focused Croma on spreading and cooking applications, excluding baking, which was a seasonal application that also helped reduce cannibalization to BlueBand. This not only distinguished the product but also reduced the cost of goods sold, enabling a competitive consumer pricing strategy. Shehani’s attention to detail extended to the execution phase, where the team concentrated exclusively on the West Java region, tripling distribution, implementing Point of Purchase (POP) executions, ensuring visibility, and conducting sampling activities to emphasize the flavour difference.


The launch of Croma in Q4 2023 exceeded expectations with a 20% over-delivery against targets. She attributes this accomplishment to the team’s willingness to unlearn and relearn, stepping outside conventional category norms, and adopting a hyper-focused city strategy. This strategic agility and commitment to offering a value proposition demonstrate her leadership in driving successful innovations and product launches.


In reflecting on strategies that have proven most effective for impactful campaigns and regional marketing excellence in AMEA, ANZ, and LATAM, Shehani accentuates the power of consistency. Maintaining a consistent approach across channels, assets, and visual identity has been a key driver of success. She highlights the importance of memory structures in consumer decision-making, emphasizing that familiarity, including colours, sonic identities, and brand assets, plays a crucial role in influencing subconscious purchasing decisions. Recognising the dominance of impulsive System 1 thinking in consumers, Shehani advocates for long-term brand consistency to establish and reinforce these memory structures.


A central tenet of her approach is problem-solving from the consumer’s perspective. Addressing consumer tension points and connecting with insights are essential components of successful campaigns. By adopting a consumer-centric mindset, creative content can resonate more effectively, ensuring relevance and interest from the audience.


Holistic integrated planning is identified as another key strategy. Shehani emphasizes that consumers are a “leaky bucket,” and growth requires continuous recruitment. This recruitment, she asserts, is contingent on the right product, pricing, brand mental availability (top of mind and brand power), and physical availability. She stresses the need to consider all these factors comprehensively to drive penetration and sustainable growth.


Another critical aspect is tracking and monitoring. As Shehani emphasizes, “Without regular monitoring of these elements, we won’t know what’s happening and won’t have the insight to address issues effectively. Therefore, having the appropriate monitoring systems in place is essential for driving sustainable and informed growth.”



Execution excellence is highlighted as the final pillar of success. Shehani emphasizes that, while strategic planning is essential, the true test lies in execution. Striving for excellence in implementation is identified as a key focus for Upfield’s growth in the upcoming year. This holistic and consumer-centric approach, marked by consistency, problem-solving, integrated planning, monitoring, and execution excellence, forms the foundation of Shehani’s strategy for achieving impactful campaigns and regional marketing excellence in the evolving landscapes of AMEA, ANZ, and LATAM.


Shehani notes that Upfield has a robust set of processes in place compared to her previous experiences with other multinational companies. Processes, in her view, are beneficial, particularly in areas like end-to-end supply chain efficiency, innovation/renovation, and SKU profitability. These processes provide visibility across regions, allowing for comparisons and learning from market best practices. Additionally, they contribute to risk avoidance by ensuring that all aspects are thoroughly considered and checked, reducing the likelihood of financial losses.


Processes such as SKU profitability evaluation significantly contribute to simplifying factory operations, reducing costs, and fostering harmonization across regions for improved efficiencies. Shehani underscores the importance of stringent evaluations, including material costing across regions, to optimize and enhance overall performance. Moreover, she expresses a strong belief in the effectiveness of monitoring tools and processes at not just the country level but also at the regional and global levels.


Looking ahead to the changing landscape of 2025, Shehani emphasizes the leadership team’s keen interest in automating some of these processes through the development of AI and other technological tools. This strategic move aims to alleviate pressure on employees, save time, and enhance overall operational efficiency. The synergy between human expertise and evolving technologies is seen as instrumental in driving Upfield’s commitment to operational excellence in the dynamic and competitive landscape of 2025.


As a recipient of the “Best Marketer of the Year” and “Emerging Leader” awards, Shehani reflects on her leadership approach and outlines her plans for building high-performing teams and fostering a culture of innovation in the upcoming years. She believes effective leadership involves allowing teams to take ownership, encouraging them to explore new initiatives, and providing support throughout their journey. Shehani values the importance of allowing her teams to take risks, learn from failures, and ultimately achieve better outcomes.


At Upfield, Shehani emphasizes the significance of “Day 01 thinking,” where questioning the status quo is encouraged to discover more efficient and profitable ways of doing things. This approach stimulates innovative thinking across all functional teams, aligning with her belief in continuous improvement and creative problem-solving.


Shehani’s leadership philosophy is rooted in learning from experience. Teams at Upfield are given opportunities to engage in new regional projects, fostering on-the-job learning experiences that are unparalleled in other multinational settings. Recognizing the importance of acknowledging outstanding work, Shehani leads the “AMEA marketing awards” across the region, a platform dedicated to celebrating exceptional team achievements and individual performances annually.


Looking forward to 2025, Shehani’s leadership principles center on creating a working culture where teams are excited to come to work on Monday morning. This aspiration reflects her commitment to cultivating a positive and engaging work environment, fostering creativity, and nurturing a sense of purpose and enthusiasm among her team members. Through these principles, Shehani aims to continue building a workplace that not only values innovation but also appreciates and recognizes the contributions of every team member.


Doesn’t seem to bring the issue out properly,


Is this better? In Indonesia, BlueBand, a brand with nearly a century of heritage, encountered stiff competition from rivals offering comparable products at reduced prices, compelling consumers to explore other options amidst economic constraints. Acknowledging the diverse tastes prevalent in Indonesia, particularly in regions like West Java, where consumers have a pronounced preference for sweet umami flavours, Shehani spearheaded the introduction of Croma, a value sub-brand. This strategic maneuver sought to alleviate the flavour mismatch dilemma confronting consumers while they navigated financial challenges.

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