PepsiCo’s launch of bubly bounce expands foothold in functional beverage space, consumer appeal

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: PepsiCo
Source: PepsiCo

Related tags: Pepsico, sparkling flavored water, functional beverage

PepsiCo expands its footprint in the burgeoning functional beverage category with today’s launch of bubly bounce – the first RTD extension of the company’s popular and playful sparkling water line that adds “just a subtle kick of caffeine” to help consumers resist the 2 pm siren song of a nap without hindering their ability to relax later.

“Consumers are increasingly looking to their water beyond hydration. We know they are looking for more, and we know that outside of flavor and taste, which are the most important drivers, function is next. And caffeine is actually a top functional driver of what consumers are looking for. They are looking for more permissible forms of caffeine as they look for healthier lifestyle,”​ Zach Harris, vice president, water portfolio at PepsiCo Beverages North America, told FoodNavigator-USA.

Indeed, Harris noted, 45% of consumers are looking for the functional benefits of caffeine in beverages, but many people don’t want the calories, sweeteners and other ingredients often paired with caffeine.

With bubly bounce, PepsiCo is springing to fill this gap by adding 35 mg of caffeine to boldly flavored sparkling water without the calories and sweeteners found in carbonated soft drinks or decadent coffee-based beverages.

“It’s just a little hint of caffeine to give you that pick me up”​ to get through the afternoon, but it is also hydration, flavor and fun, Harris said, adding “it’s an extremely clean label – honestly, just carbonated water, natural flavor and caffeine.”

In addition to the caffeine, the new line stands apart from PepsiCo’s original line-up of bubly beverages by offering more nuanced and layered flavor profiles, including mango passion fruit, triple berry, blood orange grapefruit, citrus cherry and blueberry pomegranate. 

“In terms of the flavor profiles, these are a little bit more complex than our traditional bubly lineup. We call them combo flavors … and that is intentional and strategic,”​ Harris said, explaining, “they help connote the bold lineup that we have for bubly bounce and we see some consumers are looking for these combination flavors and variety.”

While the flavors are new, Harris emphasized they still “taste just like bubly – so that you’re not tasting the caffeine separately.”

Playful packaging distinguishes bubly bounce

The packaging also sets the new line apart from the traditional bubly offering with clear front-of-pack call outs under the bubly brand name that indicate the beverage is a caffeinated sparkling water. A pixilated starburst near the top of can highlights the specific amount of caffeine – 35 mg – a point that is reiterated again in the ingredient deck.

The polka-dots and bursts of complimentary colors that are suggestive of each beverage’s fruit flavors also evoke a sense of energy that isn’t played out in the original bubly line-up’s solid jewel-toned colored cans.

And finally, the tabs on the tops of the cans prepare consumers for the peppy effect of the beverage’s caffeine content with playful phrases like ‘zing!’

While many design elements set the new line apart from its predecessor, there are many commonalities connecting the products to each other – including the iconic bubly brand name on the front, the stylized u-shape on the side that recalls a smile and the shared tagline of “no calories, no sweeteners, all smiles.”

A diverse marketing strategy for an inclusive brand

PepsiCo is supporting the new line with a 360-degree campaign featuring Michael Bublé, who continues his antics from previous bubly commercials in which he insists that bubly in pronounced the same way as his last name.

In an ad that will launch Feb. 22, a security guard finds Bublé sitting in a darkened warehouse crossing out the ‘y’ in bubly on cans of the beverage and replacing it with ‘é.’ When he discovers PepsiCo is launching a gently caffeinated bubly bounce he extolls how he will now have the energy he needs to finish “correcting” all the cases in the warehouse.

PepsiCo also has partnered with RuPaul’s drag race as the official non-alcoholic beverage sponsor of the television competition, “because we know that our drag queens definitely need a little kick of caffeine as they are out there competing,”​ Harris said.

The partnership continues the brand’s long support of the LGBTQ+ community, Harris adds, explaining, “We’ve done a lot with the LGBTQ+ community over the years. We like to say we’re loved for all our flavors and we’re an inclusivity brand,”​ that supports the community not just in June at Pride parades but all year through many partnerships and in many ways.

Bubly expands – rather than competes with – PepsiCo’s existing portfolio

The launch of bubly bounce comes fast on the heals of bubly drops​, which was released earlier this year in partnership with PepsiCo’s SodaStream business. The concentrated drops of bubly flavoring allow SodaStream consumers to make branded flavored water at home – reducing packaging and providing flexibility for flavor preferences and serving size.

The energizing functional drink also complements PepsiCo’s earlier entrance this year into the functional beverage category with its relaxation-focused Driftwell, which combines L-theanine with magnesium to promote a better night’s rest.  

Considering bubly bounce within PepsiCo’s larger portfolio, including caffeinated soda, Harris said the brand will not compete against the sugar sweetened beverages because the consumers and usage occasions are different. Rather, he says, the new line will expand how the company can engage with consumers.

“There’s a role for our entire portfolio from the PepsiCo standpoint and the role they play with different consumers and consumer needs,”​ Harris said.

Playful marketing approach sets bubly apart from competition

Even if the new line doesn’t compete against other PepsiCo products, it will go up against other caffeinated water – sparkling and still – that already are in the market.

Harris said the bubly branding and playful approach to functional beverages will help the brand standout against the competition – most of which is positioned more seriously and lacks the lively colors of bubly bounce’s packaging.

“We’re delivering on the caffeine consumers are looking for, while still making sure we always are a playful instigator that really hits on that emotional relevance as well. So, this product meets consumers in a different place than what is already on the market,”​ Harris said.

More to come from bubly in 2021

The back-to-back launches of bubly bounce and bubly drops is just the beginning of what the brand has to offer in 2021, said Harris, who promised “more product innovation and societal marketing messages”​ from the brand in the coming year.

“We want to make sure we are reaching our consumer in every way possible. So you will see more from bubly in 2021,”​ he added. 

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