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US: PepsiCo chases sparkling water growth with new ‘bubly’ brand

Move over cola wars. It’s time for the sparkling water battles. PepsiCo is introducing a line of sparkling water called ‘bubly’ that will take on the uber-trendy fast-track brand, LaCroix, and likely a whole lot of new competitors in this space.

The no-calorie drink has no artificial flavours or sweeteners, and comes in eight variants: lime, grapefruit, strawberry, lemon, orange, apple, mango and cherry. Each can has a unique smile and a tiny signature greeting on the tab, like ‘hiii’ and ‘Hey u.’

The bubly line is helping PepsiCo meet one of its “Performance with Purpose” goals to have at least two-thirds of the global beverage portfolio volume contain 100 calories or fewer from added sugars per 12 ounce serving by 2025.

The sparkling water category, once relegated as a country club drink, has become a popular beverage of choice for many consumers trying to ditch soda habits.

It makes sense that soda companies losing money in this trend, like PepsiCo, want to offer customers an alternative to keep their business.

FoodDive Insights

PepsiCo’s new playful product is laser focused on LaCroix consumers. bubly has Instagram-worthy cans, greetings on the tabs that could easily be found in the average Millennial text message, and a healthy ingredient list.

The same qualities that will likely make bubly a hit with younger consumers could prevent it from resonating with their parents, though. All of the smiles and greetings may just be too much for consumers who prefer the relatively quiet branding of LaCroix.

While bubly will debut across the US at the end of February, it will be making its national TV debut in two commercials set to air during the Academy Awards on March 4, typically one of the most watched programs of the year.

Comparatively, LaCroix has relied on in-store marketing and social media to spread brand awareness. PepsiCo, though, has deeper pockets than LaCroix’s owner (National Beverage Corp), so it can spend as needed to promote its latest product.

Some naysayers may think it’s too late for a beverage giant like PepsiCo to try to enter the competitive sparkling water space. Competitors Nestlé and Coca-Cola would probably disagree.

Nestlé, which owns Perrier and San Pellegrino, announced in late January that it planned to roll out a line of regional sparkling spring water products this month, featuring 10 flavours of natural, unsweetened spring water packaged in cans and plastic bottles.

If there is consumer demand for sparkling water, there is an open playing field for beverage companies of all sizes.

Bottled water officially edged out soda as America’s most popular beverage in 2016, but people still wanted something a bit more fun to fill the void left by ditching sugary drinks.

Demand for sparkling water will likely only continue to grow. Look for drink makers to start finding ways to use real fruit in their new formulas, as it may just be a matter of time before consumers start to give ‘natural flavours’ a skeptical second look.

It also wouldn’t be surprising to see competitor Coca-Cola launch a line of hip fizzy waters.


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