The firm confirmed to this publication that it plans to test the new beverage, Mountain Dew Johnson City Gold (pictured), in selected US cities in the Midwest, Denver and Charlotte, North Carolina.
The drink will be sold at Kroger Co. and 7-Eleven stores, and will offer consumers a malt flavour with a lemon and lime kick; it is named after Johnson City, Tennessee, where the original Mountain Dew originated.
Andrea Foote, senior director of communications, PepsiCo Beverages Americas, told BeverageDaily.com that “planning for a [potential] nationwide launch will depend on trial market sales results”.
Significant price mark-up
So would consumers be willing to pay a significant mark-up for the drink vis-à-vis standard Mountain Dew, since it would have a suggested retail price of $1.49 (€1.21) compared with 99 cents for a 16oz (473ml) can?
Foote said: “Mountain Dew is fortunate to have a passionate and loyal fan base. They love the one-of-a-kind citrus taste of Dew and they love our flavour innovations.
“We wanted to create a premium Mountain Dew experience for them by bringing them a limited time craft soda. Like original Mountain Dew, Mountain Dew Johnson City Gold is unlike any other soft drink in the US market and we think it is a taste our fans will want to experience.”
But what made PepsiCo think that the States was ready to embrace malt-based non-alcoholic beverages now – despite their popularity in geographies such as the Middle East and Latin America?
“Mountain Dew is known for its one-of-a-kind citrus taste and the brand has a history of innovating with special limited time flavors. Our fans expect us to bring them new and unique flavor experiences and that is what inspired Johnson City Gold,” Foote said.
Back in 2007, Euromonitor International analyst Johanna Iibonen noted that major beverage manufacturers could sell malt-based beverages on a ‘health and wellness’ platform.
They could fuel Western market growth by attracting health-conscious consumers looking for alternatives to conventional soft drinks and Islamic consumers who shunned alcohol, she added.
‘Health and wellness’ platform?
Malt-based non-alcoholic beverages typically contained malt, sugar and hopes, Iibonen said, while fermentation was useful in terms of preservation and added to flavour and texture.
“More importantly, malt-based drinks have developed a reputation over the centuries for their nutritional value, a message that is attractive for manufacturers to carry across in today’s climate of increasing health awareness,” Iibonen said.
But Foote denied that any such thinking had determined PepsiCo’s positioning of its new Mountain Dew line extension: “Mountain Dew Johnson City Gold is not being positioned or marketed as a ‘health and wellness’ product. It is simply a flavor innovation for Mountain Dew,” she said.
However, in 2010 PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, said the company would focus on health and wellness-oriented beverages, and it has since given its portfolio a health-based overhaul, while significant recent launches (Propel Zero enhanced water, Naked Juice low calorie smoothies) have this focus.