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Pepsi’s Stubborn Soda hits US shelves: heralding ‘the next generation of carbonated soft drinks’

By Rachel Arthur+

08-Aug-2016
Last updated on 08-Aug-2016 at 15:11 GMT2016-08-08T15:11:43Z

PepsiCo Stubborn Soda hits US shelves

PepsiCo’s craft soda line, Stubborn Soda, is launching on shelves across the US today.

The beverage comes in five ‘unexpected twists’ on traditional flavors: Black Cherry with Tarragon, Orange Hibiscus, Agave Vanilla Cream Soda, Classic Root Beer and Lemon Berry Acai.

Stubborn Soda was launched in select foodservice locations on fountain in 2015, and today launches in major retailers nationwide.

Packaged in 12 oz (355ml) glass bottles, Stubborn Soda contains 90 to 100 calories and is sweetened with Fair Trade certified cane sugar and stevia. The sodas are made with natural flavors and without high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial sweeteners, and azo dyes.

Megan Gagnon, director, marketing, Stubborn Soda, said that only quality ingredients and flavors are used to ‘create the ultimate experience.’

“Stubborn Soda is the next generation of carbonated soft drinks. We gave it that name because we don't compromise on our ingredients, flavors or the way the product is experienced," she said.

Stubborn Soda (which comes with the tagline ‘It’s Good To Be Stubborn’) has partnered with Robert Kirkman, creator and executive producer of ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Outcast,’ and Skybound Entertainment on the campaign.

PepsiCo’s launch of Stubborn Soda in 2015 followed that of Caleb’s Kola (October 2014) and citrus drink Mountain Dew Dewshine (March 2015).

It also launched 1893, its ‘unexpectedly bold’ premium cola with kola nut extract, in April this year. 

Does Stubborn Soda really herald the ‘next generation of carbonated soft drinks’? Editor's comment

PepsiCo’s Stubborn Soda launch (and indeed its other craft & premium launches) illustrates a shift in consumer preferences, away from traditional soda options and towards – what, exactly?

For a start, consumers are seeking out more interesting and adventurous flavors and, meanwhile, the influence of the undoubtedly successful craft beer phenomenon can be seen creeping into the soda category.  

The launch of PepsiCo’s 1893 premium cola earlier this year seeks to ‘capitalize on the cultural food revolution’.

It is also inspired by consumer interest in ‘bold and interesting taste combinations’ – a trend clearly echoed in Stubborn Soda’s ‘unexpected twists’ on traditional flavors.

There’s also acknowledgement of consumers’ interest in quality with Stubborn Soda: ‘we don’t compromise on ingredients, flavors, or the way the product is experienced,’ declares the brand.

Of course, consumers’ devotion to health and wellness is a key consideration: in particular the calorie content of soft drinks and concern over artificial sweeteners.

In Stubborn Soda there’s no sight of artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, Ace K or aspartame (with both aspartame-free Diet Pepsi and aspartame-sweetened Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend  now on offer it’s hard to tell which artificial sweeteners are most (least) in favor), or unpopular HFCS.

Instead, the brand turns to the golden child of sweeteners, stevia leaf extract, alongside proudly declaring its use of Fair Trade certified cane sugar.

When it comes to the calorie count, Stubborn Soda’s bottles come in at 90-100 calories (depending on the flavor) compared to 150 calories in the equivalent portion of Pepsi.

Like Coca-Cola and its other counterparts, PepsiCo has wisely been reducing its reliance on traditional cola and soda as well as looking to healthier alternatives in other F&B categories. In fact, PepsiCo’s ‘guilt-free’ products now account for 45% of portfolio by revenue (in beverages, ‘guilt-free’ is considered as products with less than 70 calories per 12 oz serving).

At 90-100 calories Stubborn Soda doesn’t quite fall into this ‘guilt free’ category (which includes bottled water, cold-press juice and RTD tea), but it does show how soda is trying to evolve with the times.

But is it really the next generation of soda? Is it going to appeal to the masses or a niche? Stubborn Soda appears to have been successful enough on fountain to roll out to the shelves, but let's remember that Pepsi's craft and premium soda offers are still relatively new – only time will tell. 

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