Pepsi NEXT

US: Pepsi Next – another try in the mid-calorie beverage arena

Early feedback from trials of Pepsi Next – PepsiCo’s third attempt to create a successful mid-calorie cola – has been “very favourable”, says the company. The drink, which contains 60% fewer calories than regular Pepsi (60 cals in a 12oz can), follows two abortive attempts by Pepsi to appeal to customers that like the taste of full sugar colas but want to cut calories: Pepsi XL, which failed to inspire in the mid 1990s, and Pepsi Edge, which was launched in 2004 but axed a year later.

PepsiCo chief financial officer Hugh Johnston says anecdotal feedback in test markets in Iowa and Wisconsin had been positive for Pepsi Next.

“Historically, consumers have had to choose between zero calorie and full calorie soft drinks”, said Johnston, “Some have been unwilling to compromise on taste and as a result, left the category completely. We need to break this paradigm… That’s why we are investing behind the discovery of new sweeteners that will spark new interest in this category. Pepsi Next is just our first step in this journey.

“It is currently in two tests markets. Although it is early days, anecdotal feedback has been very favorable which we are optimistic will play out in statistically strong support we expect once the test is completed.”

While PepsiCo clearly believes there is money to be made in mid-calorie beverages, many market watchers remain skeptical, however.

Datamonitor product launch analytics director, Tom Vierhile, says: “They keep trying it, so they must be convinced there is a market for it, but I am just not sure that the need is there. There have been such improvements in sweeteners and flavour technology in recent years that you can create zero calorie beverages now that taste just as good.”…..

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