‘Boldly Blended Colas’: Pepsi Launches 1893 Soda-Based Mixology Brand

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Pepsi 1893

Millennials have changed the rules regarding just about everything—and carbonated soft drinks are no exception. They’re interested in mixology and in natural ingredients more than any previous generation. And now PepsiCo is trying to tap into both trends with its launch campaign for the new 1893 premium soda brand.

While beer-makers such as MillerCoors are coming out with “hard sodas” that taste like carbonated soft drinks with a kick, PepsiCo’s answer is an 1893 line that lends itself perfectly to being mixed with liquor or enjoyed on its own.

“We developed this as a unique consumer proposition because we knew there was a market for this product,” Jenny Danzi, senior marketing manager for PepsiCo, told brandchannel. “The concept tested extremely well—in the top 10 percent of all soda-innovation concepts that we’d tested in the past decade.”

The company was “inspired by the mixology craze,” Chad Stubbs, vice president of marketing for the Pepsi trademark, told Ad Age. “We absolutely see this as a perfect standalone beverage or a perfect complement to cocktails.”

This is not Pepsi’s first foray into the trendy craft beverage realm. As Eater notes, “In 2014, the company introduced Caleb’s Kola, named after founder Caleb Bradham, and later launched Stubborn Soda, which embraces more offbeat flavors like agave vanilla cream, black cherry with tarragon, and lemon berry açai.”

While many regular Pepsi fans remain despite the steady decline in soft-drink consumption by Americans over the past several years, Danzi said, “1893 is an additional offering to reach an emerging trend.”

Pepsi 1893

The “1893” name is a reference to original recipes created by Pepsi founder Caleb Bradham in that same year, so the new line of beverages is inspired by more than a century of cola-making experience. Pepsi’s original formula was made with premium kola nut extract, just as 1893 is today—with the blending of authentic ingredients like certified fair trade sugar and sparkling water make it a refined cola-drinking experience.

It is available across the US in Original Cola and Ginger Cola and is packaged in sleek 12 ounce cans of bronze and black, with more of an energy-drink silhouette than a regular can of soda. The suggested retail price for a 12 oz. can is $1.79, same as for 20 ounces of regular Pepsi. Caleb’s Kola is priced higher.

In the “Soda Sommelier” ad for the product’s launch, actor Jeff Galfer acts like a sommelier describing the nuances of a beverage’s bouquet to some tourists. The beverage turns out to be 1893, and he can’t help himself from quaffing it, as a voiceover describes it as a “boldly blended cola.”

Danzi told brandchannel that the 1893 campaign will be driven more than other Pepsi beverage marketing by the opportunities, demands and generational particulars (read: wooing choosy millennials) of social media usage. “We’re going to discover things the way consumers do,” she said, adding, “We’ll see a lot of digital content coming this month and throughout the year, and a lot of social media and technology content as well.”

Pepsi 1893 craft soda line

Pepsi is also planning a unique brand experience—a Lenny Kravitz-designed restaurant in New York City called Kola House (below), which is slated to open this spring in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District—that almost certainly will feature the brand’s craft sodas in cocktails designed by resident cocktail curator and mixologist Alex Ott, who created a “Kola Station” for Pepsi at last year’s Milan Design Week.

PepsiCo Pepsi Rendering of Kola House space in New York City

As Pepsi notes, “Ott’s unrivaled background in flavor chemistry and his superior knowledge of food and beverage pairings and global palates make him the ideal mastermind behind the development of Kola House’s cocktails and elixirs.”

Mtn Dew Black LabelPepsiCo, meanwhile, is launching another new “craft” beverage this month: Mtn Dew Black Label, which has been available in a handful of college markets and is expanding to stores across America. The “dark berry” flavor is made with herbal bitters and, like Pepsi 1893, will include real sugar as its sweetener.

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