Mountain Dew Kickstart has proven one of PepsiCo’s most successful US beverage launches in the past 10 years, with 50% growth in its second year on the market and retail sales now close to $250m.
On Wednesday the company launched two new flavors of Mountain Dew Kickstart – Pineapple Orange Mango and Strawberry Kiwi, to add to its existing ‘morning’ lines Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch, and Black Cherry and Limeade – the two flavors for evening consumption.
The new drinks (pictured below) contain Mountain Dew, 10% fruit juice, coconut water and 68mg of caffeine; they are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Ace-K and Sucralose, and contain 60 calories per 12oz can. The nutrition facts panel is pictured, left.
Interestingly, original Kickstart is sold in larger 16oz (473ml) cans and is made from 5% juice; it contains 92mg of caffeine and no coconut water.
Mountain Dew evaporates: Why the smaller can sizes?
Quizzed on why Mountain Dew had shrunk the pack size, a spokesman told BeverageDaily.com that consumer by the brand showed that “our target consumer really enjoys a smaller, sleeker can,”
As to who Mountain Dew is marketing its new flavors to, the spokesman said the drinks were “tailored for the preferences of cross-cultural millennial males, but we’re feeling confident that the new flavors will have crossover appeal”.
The use of coconut water concentrate has raised some eyebrows – is it to gain an imagined ‘health halo’ or is there a functional benefit? The spokesman simply said it was chosen as an “incredibly popular ingredient”.
“When we test the concept for this new Mountain Dew Kickstart product it was the highest-scoring Mountain Dew concept we’d ever tested,” he said.
“We’re really excited about continuing to innovate on this brand and deliver consumers new options that they’re looking for,” he added.
Mountain Dew Kickstart hits the energy/CSD sweet spot
So where does the sweet spot lie for Mountain Dew Kickstart – as it transitions and tones down the energy/caffeine continuum and (arguably) hybridizes the wider energy and straight soda categories?
Well, that’s the question Euromonitor International analysts Jonas Feliciano and Howard Telford set out to answer in conversation with my colleague Kacey Culliney last December.
Telford identified Kickstart Orange as a drink that helped PepsiCo tap the breakfast time occasion and, more generally, move into new day parts.
“They got the strategy right in terms of the consumer they identify – they took brand equity and loyal consumers and transitioned that.”
Feliciano added: “It’s one of the strongest brands out there in terms of consumer affinity – there were consumers drinking energy drinks to begin with who may not have wanted to drink Red Bull before 10am.”
Breakfast beverages: Navigating murky waters…
Even traditional Kickstart has less caffeine that Red Bull, Feliciano noted, and despite using artificial sweeteners is low in calories, while its formulation, flavor and marketing make it distinct from Mountain Dew.
Noting that Mountain Dew Kickstart followed its initial success by expanding into ‘evening’ flavors, Feliciano said that the ‘breakfast beverage’ market was nonetheless “very difficult to navigate”, and that Mountain Dew had a head start by harnessing and transitioning its loyal consumer base.
“It’s a little more difficult to come up with a new product or brand. It’s more about recognizing that consumers want different products overall,” he added, noting that consumers nowadays wanted different beverage propositions at different times of the day.
Higher-value products, craft colas, for instance – could win here despite being full of sugar, for the simple fact that the consumer might only want to drink one smaller-sized serving per day, Feliciano said.
*Article co-written with Rachel Arthur and Kacey Culliney.