What happened to Nitro Pepsi? 'Stay tuned,' says PepsiCo
In an emailed statement to FoodNavigator-USA, PepsiCo said, “We continue to refine Nitro Pepsi and put the finishing touches on our roll out plans. We’re excited to bring this unique experience to our fans and nitro enthusiasts – stay tuned!”
The company did not provide any details on when Nitro Pepsi was originally supposed to launch, nor if it had an estimated future target launch date in mind.
However, the beverage did make an appearance at 2019's Super Bowl held in Atlanta, Georgia, where a select audience got to sample two versions (Nitro Pepsi and Nitro Pepsi Vanilla). A source familiar with the matter also told FoodNavigator-USA that while not widely-publicized, Pepsi Nitro is in very limited distribution at some foodservice outlets and retail, but couldn't provide any more details.
Commenting on the source of the delay of Nitro Pepsi, Howard Telford, head of soft drinks research at Euromonitor, told FoodNavigator-USA: “I know the plan was to focus on foodservice for the launch. If the product was ready for distribution in 2020, I strongly suspect those plans would have been shelved anyway, along with almost everything else related to on-trade NPD due to the pandemic.”
The postponed launch of Nitro Pepsi hasn’t stopped PepsiCo from bringing other nitrogen-infused products to market, however. Through its North American Coffee Partnership (NACP) with Starbucks, PepsiCo launched an RTD Nitro Cold Brew coffee product in late February 2020.
Nitrogen-infusion crosses categories
Many beverage brands spanning different categories have experimented with nitrogen-infusion in recent years, which has been already widely implemented in coffee drinks and beer (most well-known perhaps in Guinness beer).
But the market for nitrogen-infusion continues to diversify with the launch of nitro teas, kombuchas, and energy drinks (Coca-Cola's Monster Energy brand introduced a nitrogen-infused energy drink this year), suggesting consumer interest in the foamy, smooth drinking experience nitrogen-infusion creates is still going strong.
The traditional soda category, however, has been left largely untouched by the nitro trend until PepsiCo teased its promo video of Nitro Pepsi in January 2019.
In it, the company highlighted the cascading, foamy texture of the nitrogen-infused cola – a result of the micro bubbles produced by nitrogen used to carbonate PepsiCo’s original cola recipe.
The innovation would be a first for the beverage industry, said Pepsi, which claimed to be the first company to plan to launch a nitrogen-infused cola, “potentially creating a brand-new category."
The appeal of nitrogen-infused beverages is seemingly clear from a sensory standpoint, as the infusion of nitrogen to any non-carbonated liquid adds a creamy consistency without the addition of dairy or cream, resulting in an ice cream float or cream soda-like drinking experience for consumers.
Pepsi’s VP of marketing, Todd Kaplan also said at the time of the Nitro Pepsi 2019 announcement that “with the creation of the world’s first ever nitro-infused cola, we will be able to introduce a creamier, smoother product, reimagining cola in a way that only Pepsi can, to a whole new set of consumers.”
The company also said that the product could be sold as an RTD beverage in cans or on tap at bars and restaurants.