Soft drinks with benefits: positive PepsiCo

3 July 2018

2018 is set to be a year of positive change across PepsiCo’s portfolio, with the main focus expected to be in the beverage sector. The company has increased it’s already comprehensive research and development resources to seek further growth and opportunities. Beverage Packaging Innovation reached out to the Sustainability Office team to learn more about their packaging development.

How big of an issue is plastic packaging for PepsiCo?

Packaging plays an increasingly essential role in the way our products are delivered to our customers. As a business, we optimise our packaging materials according to several critical criteria. These include food safety regulations, shelf life (to ensure freshness and quality of the product), environmental sustainability, affordability and consumer preferences. At the beginning of each packaging design effort, we balance these criteria to arrive at an agreed final packaging design.

There are environmental and social concerns associated with plastic packaging across the consumer packaged goods industry, and we take these very seriously. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by being used once, 95% of the value of plastic packaging is lost to the economy.

What can be done?

Addressing this challenge requires collaboration across the value chain as well as in partnership with consumers, communities and governments. Many actions can be taken individually but we need collaborative effort to make a meaningful shift. This includes actions like working with others to support and leverage new technology and scale solutions, as well as encouraging consumers to recycle.

What is PepsiCo’s plastic reduction strategy?

Every day we work to do more with smarter packaging. Our vision is one where our materials are part of a circular economy. This includes designing our products to be recyclable, increasing consumer recycling rates through community partnerships and increasing the recycled content in our bottles.

Additionally, we continually look for opportunities to reduce or eliminate plastic use in our packaging. Within our beverage portfolio, we reduce plastic use by light weighting existing products and innovating new forms of drink delivery platforms that require less or no plastic. For example, our new Drinkfinity concept provides consumers with a variety of beverage options without the need for single-use plastic bottles.

Within our foods portfolio we have collaborated with biotechnology company Danimer Scientific to develop compostable and biodegradable film resins to be used for next-generation snacks packaging. In contrast with traditional plastics, Danimer’s Nodax PHA material is produced using entirely renewable biomass.

What are your deadlines for achieving your goals?

Performance with Purpose was originally launched in 2006 as our plan to integrate sustainability into our business strategy. In 2016, we announced our Performance with Purpose 2025 agenda, which renewed this commitment and set ambitious new goals for packaging. Current goals include striving to design 100% of packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable, increasing the percentage of recycled materials in our plastic packaging, reducing carbon impact of our packaging and working to noticeably increase recycling rates.

Is recycling as an option?

Increasing recycling rates is a vital part of creating a new circular plastics economy. With the PepsiCo Foundation, we work withour partners to help increase the accessibility and effectiveness of recycling infrastructure while educating consumers on the need for action. We also look to support effective public policy that can assist in lifting recycling rates.

Do you feel this is a step towards abolishing plastic altogether, or a focus on reducing waste?

Plastics have significant advantages as a packaging material, enabling the contents to be stored, transported and used safely. It is not about elminating the use of plastics – it is creating a better plastics system. PepsiCo believes that we need to move towards a more tangiable environmental efficiency.

As concerns over sugar content continue to rise and with consumer trust on the wane, slogans could be turning shopper away.

How important are external relationships and collaboration in achieving these targets?

External relationships are fundamentally important. We simply cannot solve the challenges related to packaging on our own – no organisation can. Multi sector and multi stakeholder cooperation is realistically the only way to begin to achieve systemic change. We need the industry to work collaboratively and we need the ideas, expertise and influence of government, NGOs, auxilliary agenvies, scientists and others to affect the transformation in our relationship with plastics. We need consumers to come with us on this journey.

To Drinkfinity and beyond

Drinkfinity, a PepsiCo venture first piloted in 2014 in Brazil, has announced the launch of a new personalised beverage designed to fit the individual lifestyles of busy, modern go-getters.

With Drinkfinity, people can ‘peel, pop and shake’ to combine the dry and liquid ingredients contained in portable pods with water in a specially designed, reusable, BPA-free vessel and create beverage blends in a variety of flavours.

“Drinkfinity is a delicious new beverage option that allows today’s busy consumer the unique opportunity to personalise a drink based on their individual preferences and unique lifestyle needs,” said Hernan Marina, vice-president of global business innovation. “Better yet, Drinkfinity was made to do more than just hydrate – it was created with a simple vision to make a beverage that connects the dots between wellness and versatility, whilst trying to balance the needs of people and the planet.”

There are multiple flavour profiles, including acai, pomegranate ginger, elderflower, and coconut water watermelon, which are combined of ingredients such as chia seeds, acai fruit, ginger root extract, as well as concentrated fruit juices. The dry and liquid ingredients within each pod are sealed separately in dual chambers until the beverage is mixed with cold water in the Drinkfinity BPA-free, dishwasher-safe vessel to create a 20oz beverage that can be easily enjoyed on the move and throughout the day.

Ingredient pods use approximately 65% less plastic than a 20oz ready-to-drink beverage bottle. Each pod is free of artificial sweeteners and contains between 30 and 80 calories per 20oz beverage.

For each purchase in the US in 2018, Drinkfinity has pledged to donate $1.00 to to help provide one year of safe water for one person in the developing world, up to $100,000.

Forever blowing BBLz

PepsiCo launched its latest mixology soft drink concept before Drinkfinity in the late summer of 2017 under the brand name BBLz – pronounced ‘bubbles’ – at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania.

BBLz starts with a round, clear plastic drinking glass that more resembles a Christmas tree ornament than a beverage container. On-site mixologists at Hershey Park create the drink in front of the consumer, adding a degree of theatricality. Starting with a base of PepsiCo soft drinks including Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Mist Twist, fun ingredients like popping candy, gummy candy, and other Hershey brand candies are then added to a drink, which is topped with colourful foam.

Can mixology make consumers forget about the negatives of carbonated soft drinks, like sugar content and calories? Probably not to any significant degree but what mixology can do is shift the focus to fun and capitalise on the innate curiosity that consumers exhibit towards experimenting with new flavours.

The mixology concept for BBLz has another benefit – it transforms a product into a novel consumption experience, one with premium-pricing possibilities and a perfect opportunity to share the event on social media. A growing body of psychological research says that consumers value experiences more than objects. Satisfaction toward experiences also has a tendency to grow over time (think pleasant holiday memories), while the thrill of acquiring the latest thing (think quickly forgotten birthday gifts) tends to decline as we get further away from having recieved them.

Headlines suggesting that millennials are driving the prioritisation of experiences over objects sell short the broad age appeal of experiences. According to a Q1 2017 survey by GlobalData, 60% of global consumers say they find trying new experiences most exciting, compared with 40% preferring new products. This preference toward new experiences actually increases with age. 66% of consumers age 65-plus say they prefer new things, when 34% say they prefer new posessions.

Even if it does not grow into a packaged drink line, BBLz could prove influential in suggesting new soft drink possibilities. Beverages that take playful aim at meal occasions like breakfast or dessert. For dessert, BBLz offers Whip Scream Sundae, hailed as a ‘fizzy spin on a sundae’, that uses Pepsi Vanilla and Cherry as a base. Fizzy Flapjack is another of seven BBLz flavours offered at Hershey Park; arguably the most innovative of the bunch as a breakfast-themed drink.

The odds are good that few have sampled a ‘brunch in a cup’ anything like this one. Fizzy Flapjack starts with Mist Twist apple and orange flavours and blends syrup foam, Hershey’s milk chocolate, pancake syrup, mini pancakes, chocolate chips, and bacon in a drink that screams indulgence. No word on the sugar content for this flavour, but you can bet that it is probably sky high.

Juicing with Tropicana

In the highly competitive global soft drinks market, brands are finding it tougher than ever to stand out to shoppers. Health-focused consumers, in particular, are spoilt for choice as companies place a greater emphasis on wellness. As companies scramble to uncover the secret to soft drinks success, one trend has recently emerged that appears to have worked.

There was a time when standard flavours of juice were the exciting new innovations to hit the shelves. As consumer tastes changed slowly over time, new flavours were introduced to keep public interest high. This saw the arrival of flavour mixes and smoothies, with inventive packaging designs aimed at satisfying the everevolving preferences for healthy beverages. Today, leading brands have uncovered the notion of functional drinks, and consumers are paying full attention.

Tropicana is the latest brand to jump aboard the bandwagon. It recently announced an expansion to it’s Essentials range – Berry Boost and Vitality. These additions are noticeably different to previous beverages in the Essentials range, in that they actively convey the health benefits on the face of the bottle.

The new variants have some similarity with the Innocent line of functional smoothies; the Coca-Cola brand has enjoyed significant success over the past few years following the launch of its ‘super smoothie’ portfolio, which promises energy and plentiful health benefits.

From a marketing point of view, this function is a huge positive. This inclusion on the packaging effectively replaces the need for any catchy slogans, which have become repetitive promises of nutritious ingredients and low sugar content. As concerns over sugar content continue to rise and with consumer trust on the wane, slogans could be turning shoppers away. Additional health benefits have the potential to re-establish the trust between consumer and brand.

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