PEP­SICO’S FRESH START(UP)

Fast Company - - Contents - By Katharine Sch­wab

The mas­sive snack cor­po­ra­tion went lean to de­velop a new wa­ter bot­tle and fla­vor-pod sys­tem.

If you’re try­ing to kick a soda habit, Pep­sico, be­lieve it or not, would like to of­fer you an al­ter­na­tive. As con­sumer tastes move away from fizzy sugar wa­ter, the com­pany is try­ing to move along with them. Pe­spico’s lat­est ven­ture, Drink­fin­ity, fea­tures a 20-ounce re­us­able wa­ter bot­tle and dis­pos­able fla­vor pods that lock into the bot­tle cap and in­fuse plain old wa­ter with one of 12 non-ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vors made from in­gre­di­ents like lemon­grass and spir­ulina. For this foray, Pep­sico broke with the for­mula it has used to cre­ate new recipes and prod­ucts for more than 100 years. Its tra­di­tional R&D process is tai­lor-made for soda, not health drinks, so the com­pany pulled a team out of its cor­po­rate of­fices to fig­ure out Drink­fin­ity in a cowork­ing space. It al­tered its usual test­ing strat­egy by first in­tro­duc­ing Drink­fin­ity to cus­tomers in Brazil in 2014. The pi­lot in­spired ma­jor de­sign changes, such as mov­ing the pod from the bot­tom of the bot­tle to the top. Then Pep­sico did an in­ter­nal beta test—a com­pany first—so­lic­it­ing feed­back from 4,000 U.S. em­ploy­ees, who helped iden­tify each fla­vor’s “mode,” such as “Chill” and “Charge.” Fi­nally, in­stead of tak­ing ad­van­tage of Pepsi’s pres­ence in gro­cery stores, Drink­fin­ity went to mar­ket in Fe­bru­ary on its own e-com­merce site, look­ing in­dis­tin­guish­able from any dig­i­tally na­tive di­rect-to­con­sumer brand. But the real mis­sion of Drink­fin­ity is in­fus­ing flex­i­bil­ity into the com­pany’s cre­ative process. “[These prod­ucts] don’t have to be en­gi­neered to last 120 years like a Pepsi Cola,” says Luis Mon­toya, pres­i­dent of Pep­sico Latin Amer­ica Bev­er­ages. “Peo­ple are seek­ing more va­ri­ety, and this plat­form can pro­vide it . . . . The taste and habits and even in­gre­di­ents will have to evolve.” That means Pep­sico now has a tem­plate for how to adapt to chang­ing tastes.

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