Rockstar Energy: The ‘anchor’ to PepsiCo’s energy-drink strategy

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image credit: PepsiCo
Image credit: PepsiCo

Related tags Rockstar Pepsico Energy drinks functional beverage zero sugar

PepsiCo is using Rockstar Energy as the core of its energy-drink strategy, while leveraging its partnership with Celsius to tap into leading consumer trends, Fabiola Torres, GM & CMO, SVP Energy Category at PepsiCo, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“The company never played significantly in energy before, and just within the last three years, we have four or five brands playing in energy, but Rockstar continues to be the anchor ... a core energy brand for consumers,” Torres said. 

PepsiCo buys Rockstar Energy, partners with Celsius

PepsiCo announced the acquisition of the legacy energy-drink company in March 2020, and the beverage went through a rebrand in 2021. While the pandemic halted many consumer activations, such as at concerts and sports events, the brand saw a return to those programs in 2023, as PepsiCo pushed more aggressively in the energy drink space, Torres said. 

“We were able to go back to our normal lives and really engage with the consumer through a lot of trials and sampling, making sure that the consumer knows the new flavors, the new ingredients, things that we were proud of," she said. "It's a 21-year-old brand, and there's a lot of people that still don't know the brand and our job is to build that awareness and incentivize trial.” 

In addition to the Rockstar Energy acquisition, PepsiCo made a distribution agreement with natural energy brand Celsius​ and invested $550m for a stake in the brand, which helped propel it to billion-dollar brand status. PepsiCo is using the partnership to tap into consumer demands, as it looks to innovate on functionally, Torres said.

“When we brought Celsius into the family, [it was] to really drive the future,” she said. “These categories never stop evolving ... it's always something new. The consumers are pretty savvy; they want healthier drinks as well. So, I think that the goal for Rockstar is [to] continue to evolve, continue to try better products for the consumer, and [make] sure that we satisfy the needs. Yes, it's a legacy brand, and we need to make sure that we continue serving the legacy consumers, but we attract and engage and connect with new consumers that are expecting more functionality.” 

Tapping into consumer trends for zero sugar, hydration, recovery

Celsius energy also taps into zero-sugar and clean-label trends, an increasing focus area for PepsiCo, Torres said. Rockstar Energy already has a zero-sugar offering with its Pure Zero line, sweetened with erythritol. 

As part of its PepsiCo Positive (pep+) agenda, the company plans to achieve 100 calories​ or fewer from added sugar per 12 fluid ounces serving in at least 67% of its beverage portfolio by volume by 2025. The American Heart Association recommends​ men should consume no more than nine teaspoons or 150 calories of added sugar per day, and women should consume no more than six teaspoons or 100 calories of added sugar a day.

“We have already 40-45% of our portfolio is zero [sugar], but what we want to do in 2024 is really change that dramatically. Not just with zero sugar and zero calories but adding functionality to our products.” 

PepsiCo is also expanding the occasions that Rockstar Energy is consumed with its Recovery line, a hydration beverage designed for exercise recovery. 

“[Energy drinks are] not a hydration beverage in general, and because we have enough electrolytes, we're able to claim that. So, I think the consumers have shown us that we have a really good winning product there. Our job is to continue to have it in more points of distribution, and more trials, and sampling.” 

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