Pepsi Just Dropped Its First Canned Mocktail

The "spiked seltzer," or canned sparkling water cocktail, is ubiquitous these days, having experienced a meteoric surge in popularity beginning about three years ago and netting a whopping $2.7 billion in sales between June 2019 and June 2020 (per Delish). While it is rather late, perhaps, for PepsiCo to get in the game in 2022, it is fighting for its share of what has become a very crowded market with its latest offering, which puts a twist on the ready-to-drink beverage. The company is living by the words of Richard Wilson, vice president of the drink development and formulation consultancy Wilson Beverages, who told Food Processing that while he gets constant requests to create new hard seltzers, "There's still room for growth if you're innovative."

Including its eponymous brand, Pepsi owns 10 billion-dollar beverages (think Gatorade, Dr. Pepper, Schweppes, Sierra Mist, Tropicana). And the product Pepsi deputed on June 16 is actually its second entrée into the spiked seltzer category, following its introduction of Hard Mountain Dew earlier this year. Sensibly, according to Trend Hunter, the new drink is marketed by Pepsi's bubly brand (think handsome chanteur Michael Bublé, who appears in the commercials.)

So, why is the company banking on bubly Bellini Bliss when customers have dozens of options of spiked seltzer from which to choose? Well, the drink is differentiated from the competition by more than just its unique flavor.

The genius of Pepsi's spiked seltzer is that it isn't spiked

According to Trend Hunter, the canned seltzer cocktail introduced on June 16 by PepsiCo is called Bellini Bliss, and it's marketed by the company's sparkling water brand bubly. It is easy to imagine the flavor, a peach-pineapple-mango concoction, will generate some buzz, and probably win over some loyal customers (think millennials who enjoy brunch with bottomless bellinis.) 

Still, the hard seltzer options available from brands big and small are practically limitless, and many have unique flavors, too. Take, for example, White Claw's blackberry (underutilized, in this writer's opinion), Truly's strawberry hibiscus, Bud Light's Summer Ice, Jose Cuervo's tequila based sparkling Paloma cocktail, Flying Embers' chili pepper and jalapeño infusions, and four varieties of rosé offered by Smirnoff (via Delish). But bubly Bellini Bliss does not contain alcohol (nor does it contain calories, nor any artificial flavors or sweeteners — a feat, considering that we're talking about a drink that tastes like a fruity cocktail).

Perhaps PepsiCo took notice of a trend its competitors missed: According to Voice of America, the health and wellness wave coupled with the advent of higher-quality ingredients has led to the ascendency of the ready-to-drink canned alcohol-free seltzer. The growth of this beverage category may not have earned as much attention, perhaps because it has happened in tandem with the explosion of hard seltzers a few years ago, but PepsiCo is betting big that its booze-free bubly Bellini Bliss will meet customers' demand for a fruity, fizzy drink that doesn't come with a hangover.