Both soft drink giants need to go into new spaces as the beverage market shifts.
For decades the battle between Coca-Cola (KO) – Get Free Report and PepsiCo (PEP) – Get Free Report battled over which company had the better-tasting cola. That led to the famous “Pepsi Challenge” marketing campaign which kicked off in 1975 that has been used periodically since then.
The premise was simple. People were asked to sample both Pepsi and Coke in a blind taste test and, at least according to the ads, Pepsi was the overwhelming winner. In reality, both brands have people who swear by one over the other, and the “which is better? question is really just one for marketing campaigns.
Coke and Pepsi’s battle for supremacy has spanned all sorts of different soda areas with both recently changing their “zero sugar” recipes (using the word diet is taboo now) and PepsiCo also recently killed its lemon-lime Sierra Mist brand to replace it with Starry, a new attempt to dethrone Coke’s Sprite.
In recent years, that battle has extended beyond soda into juice, water, energy drinks, iced teas, and more. That’s largely because soda sales actually peaked in the U.S. in 1999.
“After peaking in the late 1990s, per capita soft drink consumption has fallen every year since,’ wrote IbisWorld. “The reasons behind the fall are twofold: an increase in health consciousness and an increase in price. Carbonated soft drinks provide little nutritional value, though many of these drinks provide an entire recommended daily sugar intake in one 12-ounce can.”
That’s one take on the why. In actuality, it’s also possible that consumers just have a lot more choice and they’re opting for other drinks.
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Coca-Cole Brand Moves Into Mixers
Recently, both companies have also dipped their toes into alcoholic beverages. That’s an adjacent space where both Coke and Pepsi have opted to work with partners.
In June 2021, PepsiCo launched a new line of non-alcoholic beverages designed to capitalize on the growing craft cocktail market by launching a line of mixers..
“The premium mixers, called Unmuddled, will hit shelves in September,” Spirit Business reported at the time. “The range comes in three flavor variants, which are made with juice and contain no artificial sweeteners.”
Pepsi’s Unmuddled line includes:
Lemon Mint which the company described as ‘cool, zesty, refreshing and light’, with an herbal note designed to pair with tequila, gin, or whiskey.Fiery Pineapple matches its namesake fruit with a spicy kick and is suggested for mixing with vodka, rum, tequila, or mezcal.Spiced Mandarin, which is designed to mix ‘seamlessly’ with any spirit, though tequila, gin, or whiskey are recommended
A few months prior to the launch of Unmuddled, PepsiCo released Neon Zebra, another non-alcoholic mixer line.
“They are designed to appeal to younger consumers spending more time at home who want to avoid complicated cocktail recipes or large-format mixers,” RetailDive reported.
Now, Coca-Cola has followed its longtime rival into the craft cocktail mixer space.
Coca-Cola’s Simply Launches a Mixer Line
Coke’s Simply brand has been one of the company’s efforts in the juice space. Its core line offers juices, lemonades, and almond milk marketed as “all-natural.” Now, the brand has moved into cocktail mixers with a new offering called Simply Mixology.
“The line of fruit-forward, all-natural flavored juice beverages made with the same close-to-nature ingredients fans expect from the fast-growing portfolio of Simply Beverages are crafted to be enjoyed with or without alcohol. Three Simply Mixology varieties — Strawberry Guava Mojito, Lime Margarita, and Peach Sour –will be available starting Jan. 23 in 52-oz. bottles in the refrigerated juice sections of grocery stores across the United States,” Coca-Cola shared in a press release.
Coca-Cola pointed out that the new line speaks to multiple trends, both an increase in cocktail consumption and a growing trend of people drinking non-alcoholic mocktails.
“We know that Simply has been a favorite mixer for 20 years—you can make a mean screwdriver with Simply Orange Juice, a great Cape Codder with Simply Cranberry, and a killer margarita with Simply Limeade,” adds Alex Ames, Creative Director, Nutrition, Coca-Cola North America. “With Simply Mixology, we wanted to find a way to simplify and elevate the at-home drinking experience with great-tasting, natural solutions that are not only amazing mixers, but also stand on their own as ready-to-drink mocktails,” Coca-Cola added.