‘Pepsi Next’ Launches March 26

High stakes in mid-calorie line extension

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- PepsiCo Inc. will roll out the long-anticipated "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, according to a Reuters report.

Pepsi Next, which has 60% less sugar and fewer calories than Pepsi-Cola, will launch nationwide on March 26 and 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," Angelique Krembs, vice president of marketing for Pepsi, told Reuters.

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, because they are 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.

The new drink is sweetened with a mixture of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.

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.

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. It is expanding the “Ten” concept to its other flagship sodas.