Soda Wars: What PepsiCo’s launch of Starry means for Gen Z-focused Soda Brands

This year, PepsiCo announced a brand-new soda beverage, with a lemon-lime flavor, called Starry. According to the brand’s promotional content, this new product was created to target younger generations of consumers, specifically Gen Z customers. The new soda beverage is actually a direct competitor to Sprite, the popular soda beverage from Coca-Cola, and it’s also available in regular, as well as zero-sugar versions for consumers. 

PepsiCo’s new beverage

The Starry beverage first debuted at the National Association of Convenience Stores back in October in Las Vegas. The company sent out samples to various influencers that tried it and shared their reviews on YouTube this week. The soda drink has been slowly rolling out in stores all over the US, including Walmart and Kroger. The brand describes the new beverage as a soda that’s made with a refreshing and crisp formula. According to the packaging of the soda drink, the company is also taking steps toward more sustainability. The brand announced that it would be doubling the percentage of beverages delivered in reusable bottles by 2030 from the original 10% to 20%. 

With the introduction of Starry, PepsiCo will also be discontinuing its current Sprite beverage competitor, Sierra Mist. This beverage was launched back in 2000 and experienced a decline in sales over the last decade. Since the 1980s, PepsiCo has launched a number of different soda drinks to compete with Coca-Cola’s Sprite, including Storm and Slice. Over the past decade, the brand has tried various changes to Sierra Mist. These changes include renaming it to Mist Twist, changing it back to the original name, and changing the formula in 2015.

Taking on the competition

In the lemon-lime soda market, the leader for a few decades has been Coca-Cola’s Sprite. According to research, this soda drink has been the top rated for volume of sales and flavor. It is also the fourth highest selling soda drink across the US. More specifically, Sprite managed to get a 7% share of the soda market in the US. PepsiCo’s own lemon-lime soda beverage until now, Sierra Mist, only had a 0.1% share of the same market, worth over $80 billion. The new caffeine-free beverage from PepsiCo is better compared to the old Sierra Mist. It has more of a citrus flavor that’s similar to the fruit, is a lot more aromatic, and also has a cleaner finish. The design of the new soda drink is also targeted to Gen Z consumers with brighter colors compared to other drinks in the market.

With such an investment in Starry and its specific design to appeal to a Gen Z consumer, PepsiCo is clearly doubling down on its belief that, in order to take on significant market share, they need this cohort of buyers to buy into their beverage. The success, or lack thereof, of Starry will certainly drive adoption of this strategy across other Pepsi beverage brands, and beyond. 

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