PepsiCo relaunches EVOLVE plant-based protein brand with new formulations, packaging

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture credit: PepsiCo
Picture credit: PepsiCo

Related tags plant-based protein Pepsico

Two years after acquiring it as part of its $465m deal to buy CytoSport, PepsiCo has embarked on a refresh of plant-based protein brand EVOLVE with new packaging and formulations to help it stand out in a category “experiencing broader acceptance.”

Relaunched EVOLVE​ ready-to-drink protein shakes have recently begun rolling out at retailers nationwide and are “already seeing strong gains through PepsiCo’s distribution network​,” Laura Gardner, senior director for PepsiCo’s active fitness portfolio, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“In addition to existing retailer distribution, consumers will now also begin to see EVOLVE available at many new retailers, including Target, Walmart, and 7-Eleven,” ​said Gardner.

When PepsiCo acquired EVOLVE, she added, "there was strong distribution in the grocery - specifically Whole Foods where it was the #1 SKU in the ready to drink plant-based protein category - and natural foods channels, as well as e-commerce. That gave a solid foundation from which to start, but also provides a lot of opportunity looking forward.

"In 2021, one of the biggest pushes will be around e-commerce. The RTD protein category, and especially the plant-based segment, is one where consumers are primed to shop via e-commerce and direct-to-consumers channels. With these channels experiencing surging demand, a substantial portion of our retail strategy is focused on e-commerce."

The new look is rolling out ahead of the brand’s new ‘There’s Outside In Here’ campaign, “which will place a heavy emphasis on grassroots and trial-driving initiatives, in tandem with a national consumer sweepstakes in partnership with the National Park Foundation," ​added Gardner.

“Americans have a renewed appreciation for spending time outside, and EVOLVE meets that mindset.”

‘Active wellness seekers…’

According to Gardner, citing IRI data (2017-2020), plant-based protein shakes – which are typically fueled by pea protein, although some brands also add with rice, pumpkin, or fava beans - have been enjoying double-digit sales growth in traditional retail “and continue to outpace the broader protein shake category​ [in which PepsiCo also plays via milk/whey-protein fueled brand Muscle Milk].”

The reformulated EVOLVE shakes – which contain 20g protein and 4g added sugar - have more fiber (going from 1g to 10g by adding soluble corn fiber), added vitamin B12, less sodium and saturated fat and slightly fewer calories.   The Berry Medley protein shake also contains Vitamin C and Zinc to help support a healthy immune system.

EVOLVE is relaunching at a time when the category is experiencing broader acceptance and active wellness-seekers are making incrementally healthier and sustainably-minded choices​,” said Gardner.

evolve protein relaunch pepsico
Old packaging (left); new packaging (right) - picture credits: PepsiCo

‘EVOLVE’s goal is to help make plant-based protein accessible to all’

The RTD products – which are not meal replacements – are designed to be consumed after exercise to support recovery and help rebuild muscle, she said: “EVOLVE’s key audience are active wellness seekers who have an appreciation for the outdoors.

“EVOLVE’s goal is to help make plant-based protein accessible to all and we’re doing this through the power of PepsiCo’s distribution system and our distinctive category differentiators: delicious reformulated plant-based protein shakes, and our ownable connection to the outdoors,” ​added Gardner, who said EVOLVE has committed to being a partner with the National Park Foundation for “at least the next three years.”

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