After launching in other parts of the world for the past two years, Pepsi Next officially launched in Canada. Unlike the American version that contains 60% less sugar compared to the regular Pepsi, the Canadian version contains 30% less sugar. The difference is a function of the sweetener composition. The American version is sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose. The Canadian version is naturally sweetened with stevia extract. This difference affects how Pepsi Next is marketed on both sides of the border. How will Canadian consumers respond to Pepsi Next and its marketing communications? More curiously, how much of the marketing communication will be customized to the Canadian market?
Pepsi supported Pepsi Next’s introduction with a pre-launch promotion, partnering with the NHL and the Heritage Classic hockey game in Vancouver. Here is part of the Canadian consumer reaction to the beverage as captured by Pepsi below. The initial consensus indicates positive response to the beverage.
While mid-calorie soda is still an emerging product area for Canadians, it is certainly on point with what most people are looking for. Canadian consumers are more health-conscious and more proactive at seeking out healthy food offerings. Sugar intake and calories per serving are more top of mind for Canadians shopping within grocery stores. A product that provides the same taste without any bitter aftertaste (like the American Pepsi Next) and contains less sugar helps to lessen the guilty burden. Naturally sweetened with stevia also helps to increase adoption since artificial sweeteners are also perceived to be less healthy. Consider Pepsi Next similar to the early successes of the vitaminwater Canadian launch. The enhanced water brand pioneered a new segment with a health-based product positioning at a time when consumers were beginning to question what they eat and drink on a daily basis. The beverage met their requirements given its appeal as a great tasting healthy product. While Pepsi Next is still a soft drink and cannot be considered “healthy” in the traditional sense, it is healthier relative to the other soft drinks.
Following it’s launch, Pepsi Next has ran a TV commercial adapted from the American Pepsi Next “Baby” spot. The Canadian version included some very noticeable differences. The key components being the refreshed packaging, the slogan of “Taste It to Believe It”, and of course, the “30% less sugar”. The call to action of “Taste It to Believe It” is clearly catering to the Canadian audience. The American slogan is “Drink It to Believe It”. The customized “Taste” instead of “Drink” speaks toward a different value system between the two countries. “Drink” implies consuming the entire beverage. “Taste” obviously imply giving the product a try. Perhaps the Canadian population may be more cautious at first toward trying a new beverage, but adapting the slogan clearly shows customizing the message toward the Canadian audience. In order for Pepsi Next to succeed in Canada, this is a great first step.
The truly telling piece will be how Pepsi Next is supported following the launch period. We know from earlier articles that Dr Pepper TEN and Pepsi Next are not sustaining earlier launch-period sales following reduced media support (article here). With less attention dedicated toward the product, consumer focus will shift toward other health option. Pepsi Next can maintain its launch momentum and also continue its early success if it keeps advertising to maintain its awareness levels . Let’s hope the Canadian marketing team learns from what happened in the U.S. and find more success than its neighbors south of the border.