PepsiCo targets Gen Z with Starry soda launch

24 Jan 2023

PepsiCo has launched a lemon-lime soda, Starry, targeting young Gen Z consumers and competing with Coca-Cola’s Sprite and Keurig Dr Pepper’s 7-Up.

PepsiCo said in a press release that the “demand for lemon lime flavored soda has never been greater,” making it an opportune time to challenge category leaders like Sprite, owned by the Coca-Cola Company, and 7-Up, owned by Keurig Dr Pepper.

PepsiCo targets Gen Z with Starry soda launch
STARRY™ debuts in both Regular and Zero Sugar versions, and is now available at retailers and foodservice outlets nationwide in a variety of sizes. Image source: prnewswire.com

Starry is already rolling out in the US market with regular and zero sugar formulas that are caffeine-free. Starry, and the predecessor that it is replacing, Sierra Mist, share a lot of the same ingredients, and both have been positioned as direct competitors to Sprite and 7-Up.

After first launching in 2000, Sierra Mist went through several reformulations, with some versions using cane sugar and others using high fructose corn syrup. Starry is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

"With Starry, we were able to create a game-changing recipe with the perfect balance of lemon lime flavour and sweetness compared to the competition," said Danielle Barbaro, vice president of research and development at PepsiCo Beverages North America.

Speaking soda directly to Gen Z

PepsiCo is not being shy about its intentions to market the soda to young people, calling Starry “the soda for a generation of irreverent optimists” and “made to speak to Gen Z.”

It is a significant effort by PepsiCo to re-capture the under-25 demographic, which has become elusive to traditional soda brands. Younger generations have shown that they prefer functional beverages that are clean, sustainable, and socially responsible, and that they perceive soda and other sugary drinks as negative and unhealthy.

Starry’s targeted branding is an attempt to change that. PepsiCo kicked off the launch campaign by sending Starry to social media influencers, many of whom posted reviews of the drink online on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

And with its tagline “Starry hits different,” PepsiCo is trying to appeal to internet-savvy customers. Official social media accounts for the drink are already active and using a noticeably casual and youthful brand voice. In its first tweet, Starry said, “Now that we’re real, we’re seeking #Starry stans, so uhhh do your thing...?”

STARRY™STARRY™, a great-tasting soda bursting with lemon live flavor delivers both an exceptional taste and flavor experience. Image source: prnewswire.com

By comparison, accounts for other PepsiCo beverages, like Pepsi and Gatorade, use a more formal and universal brand voice online to reach a wider customer demographic.

PepsiCo said that marketing plans for the Starry brand will include a national TV commercial, digital, and social content, and partnerships within sports and entertainment.

Health and wellness puts low sugar in focus

Just days after the official Starry launch, PepsiCo announced that it also reformulated another one of its flagship beverages, Pepsi Zero Sugar.

“The upgraded Pepsi Zero Sugar recipe uses a new sweetener system to land a more refreshing and bolder taste profile than the previous Pepsi Zero Sugar varietal,” PepsiCo said in a press release.

Diet, low sugar, and light soda drinks have a bad reputation when it comes to taste. With more people making the switch to flavoured sparkling water or similar alternatives, soda brands are aiming to ensure that their zero sugar drinks taste as close to their regular counterparts as possible.

Through its own internal testing, PepsiCo said consumers considered the new Pepsi Zero Sugar formula to pair better with food, and to be more refreshing and smoother than the previous formula.

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