‘Shock factor’ flavors entice younger generations

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

'Shock flavors' create excitement, demand and FOMO... Pic:getty/jasmina81
'Shock flavors' create excitement, demand and FOMO... Pic:getty/jasmina81

Related tags Flavors Soft drinks

Soft drinks flavors with a ‘shock factor’ – for example unique, unusual, and limited time only flavors – are creating a buzz among a younger generation fuelled by FOMO (fear of missing out).

Around a third of US consumers purchase a new variety of soft drinks out of curiosity, according to the research from GlobalData. And limited edition drinks instill a sense of urgency to buy now or risk missing out. 

Examples of these new and unusual flavors include PepsiCo’s ‘Flamin Hot Mountain Dew’ – a limited edition drink aimed at teen gamers by combining the Cheetos flamin hot flavor with an energy drink – and its collaboration with Peeps to create a marshmallow flavor cola.

Making room for experimentation

Traditionally popular flavors of cola, lemon-lime and pepper saw a combined 4.3% volume decrease in 2020, according to GlobalData stats. These flavors will still remain dominant: but the decline shows there’s increasing space for brands to experiment with unique, limited edition flavors.

These shock factor, experimental beverages tug on the ‘FOMO’ strings – especially when a lot of buzz is generated across different social platforms,” ​noted George Shaw, Beverages Analyst at GlobalData.

“Capturing the attention of online influencers is key as they could share the ‘crazy concoctions’ to their social feeds.

"Further, curiosity is a powerful drive. According to GlobalData’s Q2 2021 consumer survey, around a third of US consumers purchase new varieties of soft drinks out of curiosity.”

In the case of Flamin Hot Mountain Dew, the drink was limited to two six-can cases per order: creating an air of exclusivity and leveraging FOMO.

Launched in March, Peeps and Pepsi's marshmallow soda was only available to participants who shared a tweet enjoying springtime activities and tagged Pepsi and a specific hashtag. 

In this way, the drink was less about being a catalyst for sales and more about offering a fun promotional campaign to increase consumer and brand interaction.

“People spend a lot on fizzy drinks – as admitted by 34% of US consumers in GlobalData’s survey,”​ added Shaw. “Successful collaborations and innovations from PepsiCo will pave the way for the continuation of innovative flavors across the soft drinks landscape in the future.”

From flamin hot to floral flavors

Flavor trends are not only about unique shock flavors, however.

GlobalData notes the rise of known ingredients that nevertheless offer a twist of something slightly different: floral flavors such as rose, violet and elderflower have grown in popularity over the past year.

Furthermore, it expects to see brands experiment with spice flavors in the coming colder months.

“Coca Cola cinnamon is an example of an industry leading company experimenting with unusual ingredients, which sets a good example for other companies to follow suit,”​ notes Shaw.

Related topics Markets Soft drinks PepsiCo

Follow us


View more