PepsiCo expands bubly brand with new flavor-forward bubly burst

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

PepsiCo launches flavor-forward bubly burst

Related tags Sparkling water

On a trajectory to become one of PepsiCo’s next billion-dollar brands, bubly has been making a splash as a fun-loving sparkling water brand. New launch bubly burst is set to expand the brand’s appeal by tapping into a market of consumers looking for stronger and slightly sweeter tastes that a typical sparkling water.

Unlike the original bubly, bubly burst is sweetened in order to help pack an extra flavor punch.

A 'pop of personality'

Demand for healthier alternatives to soda is helping drive the sparkling water category forward. And yet for many consumers, the jump between soda and sparkling water is still just a bit too far: with sparkling water typically offering more subtle flavors and more elegant branding than the average soda.

bubly launched in the US and Canada in 2018, bringing a soda-like ‘pop of personality’ to the sparkling water aisle with its mission to ‘shake up the sparkling water category'.

That sets it apart from other bottled water brands in the PepsiCo portfolio (LIFEWTR is an unflavored, premium water brand purified with electrolytes and identified by its artist collabs​; while SodaStream ​has its own at-home focus), with bubly very much targeted as a fun-loving, Gen Z and millennial brand.

That playful personality also sets it apart from competitors outside of PepsiCo.

The original bubly drink does not contain sweeteners and is packaged in cans. Flavors include limebubly, grapefruitbubly, strawberrybubly, lemonbubly and more.

Since its US launch, bubly has become the ‘#1 sparkling water brand in awareness, and the #1 most preferred sparking water brand in the marketplace’, according to Kantar Brand Mind Share 2023 Annual Report.

Newcomer bubly burst, however, is sweetened with a mix of sucralose and Ace-K, and is packaged in PET bottles. It comes in six flavors: triple berry, peach mango, watermelon lime, pineapple tangerine, cherry lemonade and tropical punch. All come in at under 10 calories, and are packaged in 100% recycled PET single serve 16.9oz bottles.

Todd Kaplan, CMO Pepsi and Sparkling Water, says bubly burst sees the brand take the fun, colorful brand equity of bubly and take it to a whole new set of consumers. Nothing has changed in the core bubly product: but bubly burst is about creating a lightly sweetened beverage ‘based on evolving consumer preferences’.

As the category has become more mainstream, consumers are coming into the space looking for solutions that have a stronger and slightly sweeter taste that a typical sparkling water.

First and foremost, that’s about flavor, he said.

“Our insights and analytics team uncovered an entire subset of consumers – 20MM of them – who were looking for a lightly sweetened sparkling option, with minimal calories and zero sugar and bubly burst delivers for this consumer who prioritizes flavor above all else.

“When we looked at the sweetened sparkling category, we saw there was a huge opportunity for the bubly brand to expand to meet the needs of this consumer and offer them a product that was not only refreshing and flavor-forward, but also fun to drink! Our packaging has the same playful smiles and greetings you are used to seeing on cans of bubly."

Sweeteened vs unsweetened: It's not about popularity, but preference...

bubly, therefore, can now cater to consumers who like the original unsweetened version - as well as reaching out to new consumers looking for something sweeter.

“The difference [between sweetened sparkling and unsweetened] is not about popularity – both are quite popular – as it is really more about preference,” said Kaplan. But the two categories are quite different in terms of the consumers they attract. 

“The sweetened sparkling consumer base is certainly attracting a particular subset of consumers who are looking for a beverage with the fun of a typical carbonated soft drink, the permissibility of a sparkling water, and a little extra hit of flavor.

“The unsweetened sparkling water category isn’t meeting those needs for these consumers – especially around taste – so we designed bubly burst to give them a bigger burst of fruit flavor.” 

PepsiCo won’t divulge data on bubly sales: but data from Statista puts the brand’s 2023 sales at around $380m. That makes the brand one of the top sellers in the category: although still someway behind Sparkling Ice ($840m) and La Croix ($540m). And private label brands are also a big contender in the category.

But PepsiCo is convinced of the brand’s potential: eying it up as a star performer and ‘brand of the future’ from the word 'go' – not least with a tie-up with Michael Bublé and Super Bowl ad in 2019.

“We’ve always stood out to the consumer through playfulness – from the smiles on the cans, to the bright colors, to the sayings on the packages and our tabs – as we are the only sparking water product that greets you when opening the can,” said Kaplan, referring to the messages that are printed on the can tabs and greet consumers with "Hey u," "hiii," and "yo".

“From our unique flavors to vibrant package design, bubly was specifically created with the needs of the sparkling water drinker in mind. With the launch of bubly burst now adding to that list in the US, I’m confident that bubly has the potential to become one of our next billion dollar brands within our portfolio.”

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