| CHICAGO, March 13
CHICAGO, March 13 PepsiCo Inc is
rolling out the "Next" version of its flagship cola brand in the
United States later this month in an effort to court drinkers
who have given up on cola, as it seeks to win back lost share in
a shrinking market.
Pepsi Next, which has 60 percent less sugar and fewer
calories than Pepsi-Cola, will launch nationwide on March 26 and
will target people who do not want all the sugar of full-calorie
sodas, but are "resistant" to diet sodas.
"Somewhere in between that landscape is a big, wide-open
space looking for something better than the diets that exist
today but less sugar than regular," said Angelique Krembs, vice
president of marketing for Pepsi.
Every year, the cola category loses about 90 million cases
of sales volume, as people opt for other mid-calorie drinks,
such as coffee and tea, Krembs said, since they're unsatisfied
with current cola options.
The stakes are high for PepsiCo, whose North American drinks
business has suffered in recent years from an admitted
under-investment in its brands. Chief Executive Indra Nooyi has
come under fire by many on Wall Street for a stagnant stock
price, lowered earnings forecasts, and market share losses.
"If we even get a fraction of that business captured by
Pepsi Next, that's a very viable business," she said.
The drink will be sweetened with a mixture of high-fructose
corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.
Nooyi has been criticized as having taken her eye off the
company's core soda business, as she expanded into healthier
areas like drinkable oatmeal and whole-grain chips.
Last month she laid out a plan to turn around the North
American business that includes ramping up advertising and
marketing by $500 million to $600 million this year. The
marketing will be centered on 12 brands including Pepsi,
Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Tropicana, Quaker and Doritos.
Krembs declined to say how much Pepsi was spending on the
launch. In addition to traditional advertising, Pepsi will host
an "internet taste test" and tastings at major retailers
including more than 800 Wal-Mart stores.
The company used advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day, which
handles all of its Pepsi ads.
This is not Pepsi's first foray into so-called mid-calorie
drinks. It launched Pepsi XL in the 1990s and Pepsi Edge in
2004. Both were later discontinued. Coca-Cola also once launched
the mid-calorie Coca-Cola C2, which was also discontinued.
More recently, Coca-Cola has seen huge success with its Coke
Zero, a low-calorie cola with a flavor closer to Coca-Cola than
Diet Coke, while Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc launched
the 10-calorie Dr Pepper Ten, with a cheeky, uber-macho ad
campaign based on the premise that men don't like diet soda. The
drink's tagline proclaims "it's not for women".
In testing over the summer, Pepsi Next met or exceeded the
company's internal benchmarks regarding consumers' initial and
repeat purchases for the product and how much it added to sales
of existing Pepsi colas, Krembs said.
As a result, the company is optimistic Pepsi Next will
increase overall sales rather than cannibalize them, she said.