Pepsi swaps 24-year-old Sierra Mist for new Sprite rival

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Pepsi is reaching for the stars in its latest effort to take on Sprite.

Starry, a new lemon-lime soda, will launch in supermarkets and convenience stores this week. It is replacing Sierra Mist, a 24-year-old brand that failed to gain traction against market leader Sprite, which is owned by main rival Coca-Cola (KO).

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Pepsi’s internal research showed that “demand for lemon-flavored soda has never been greater,” the company said in a statement. That led Pepsi to develop a new lemon-lime soda that gives “people a choice in an area that has been dominated by one brand for years.”

Starry is caffeine free and is being launched with two options: regular and sugar free. A Pepsi spokesperson told CNN that Starry has “superior citrus flavors that are true to fruit and more aromatic” compared to Sierra Mist.

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Sierra Mist was released in 1999 to much fanfare, however it never greatly affected Sprite’s dominance. Neil Saunders, GlobalData’s managing director of retail, told CNN that it’s a “confusing brand” that looks like a “Sprite knockoff.”

“In an age when traditional soda growth is slow and when shelves are being flooded with new and innovative beverages, being a jaded second-tier player really doesn’t cut it,” Saunders said. He pointed out that the brief rebrand for Mist Twist between 2016 and 2018 was “pointless” because it confused consumers.

Beverage Digest sales data provided to CNN show that Sierra Mist’s share of the soft drink market barely exceeds one-tenth of 1% and has been in decline for at least five years. Sprite, in turn, increased its share of the soft drink market over the same period to almost 8%.

Starting from scratch, Pepsi is positioning Starry for younger drinkers (i.e., its catchy Gen Z tagline that infuses Internet slang: “Starry hits different”) who are moving away from sugary drinks and becoming brand loyalists. smaller ones, like Olipop, who have the “finger firmly on the pulse,” Saunders said.

“the giants [de bebidas] are aware of this and are trying to react as a way to increase market share and exploit a market that they don’t serve as well as they should”, he said. “Starry’s design is much more in line with the Gen-Z aesthetic, which is bright, fun, whimsical, instagrammable, than many of Pepsi’s other offerings.”

Pepsi plans to promote Starry with TV and digital ads, as well as a presence on social media such as TikTok.

Despite the daunting task ahead for Pepsi facing a 60-plus-year-old rival, it could be an opportunity for Starry, according to Billy Roberts, senior food and beverage analyst at Mintel.

“Starry enters a market segment dominated by the Coca-Cola brand and, at the same time, is a new brand in an already competitive category of soft drinks”, he said. “However, this could be an advantage, bringing something new to a category where younger consumers have shown a tendency to break away from the tried and true to experiment with new flavors and formulations.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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