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Behind PepsiCo’s ‘made for India’ innovation work

PepsiCo's ‘made for India’ lemon category innovation

Among PepsiCo’s beverage portfolio in India, a surprise flagship is Mountain Dew which, with its adventure-led positioning, has managed to occupy sizable clout. The Drum finds out how the beverage giant has built the franchise further and put together an India-first launch with Mountain Dew Ice.

Even as the carbonated soft drink category goes through peaks and troughs, on account of health concerns, seasonality and demand variation across markets, some sub-categories seem to be in relatively better health. In India, one such growing one is the lime and lemon category, which is currently at an estimated market size of around 600m cases per year. According to studies, the lemon and lime-based beverages category is more than 50% of the fizzy drinks category and is the fastest-growing segment. Furthermore, research has shown that the appetite among Indian consumers is high for beverages that offer a taste closest to the real lemon and lime experience.

To make the most of this growth curve and the lemon-fix of the consumers, PepsiCo decided to launch the sub-brand Mountain Dew Ice in India albeit in a ‘made for India’ avatar.

After extensive research, the brand decided to go in to add a lemon-flavored twist to the classic Mountain Dew, while keeping in mind the Indian palate. Thus, was launched the unique cloudy format with a real lemon taste accompanied by the zing. (In contrast, most players in the category are available in clear and citrus flavor formats.) Here is the story behind the launch and what makes it such an important innovation in the PepsiCo portfolio.

Mountain Dew’s clout in India and in PepsiCo portfolio

Mountain Dew with its adventure-led positioning has had an interesting journey in India with a sharply defined target audience. Even within the PepsiCo portfolio, it has had a leadership position in North India, one of its strong markets.

Talking about the genesis of this positioning, Vineet Sharma, category director- Mountain Dew & Sting, PepsiCo India in an exclusive chat with The Drum shares, “Mountain Dew has always been a brand that has aimed to inspire the Indian youth and encourage them to overcome their fears to achieve extraordinary success.”

The brand has maintained that the difference between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ is the decision to move beyond fears and self-doubt, he adds, which has been finding a voice in marketing campaigns over the years.

Early on in the brand’s journey, the custodians had zeroed in on ‘risk, fear and victory’ as the three pillars that it wanted to focus on, for its narrative. Thus, its positioning has largely been around ‘darr ke aage jeet hai’, translated as ‘victory lies beyond fear’.

Launching a ‘made for India’ innovation backed by consumer research

Extensive consumer research by PepsiCo reiterated the strong preference of the Indian palette for the lemon flavor, emphasizing the latent demand for this sub-category. Thus, to cater to a growing consumer base that did not have too many options from existing drinks, Mountain Dew Ice was launched earlier this year.

This ‘made for India’ twist to the classic Mountain Dew also marks the first time that Mountain Dew has launched a sub-brand since its entry in India in 1989, shares Sharma. The launch introduces the global drink in a unique cloudy lemon format for the first time anywhere in the world.

Recruiting a Bollywood brand ambassador to deliver the story

Mountain Dew, for many years, has had a very consistent positioning: of being the courage partner in moments of fear. The adventure meets self-belief positioning has worked well over the years and has given the beverage brand a sharp personality. Along with the consistent positioning, what has also helped the brand is having the popular and famous Bollywood action star Hrithik Roshan as its familiar face since 2013.

Mountain Dew campaign (March 2020)

Research has shown that consumers related strongly to Hrithik Roshan in the context of vulnerability and facing fear head-on. Moreover, his on-screen action hero persona works very well for Mountain Dew’s brand storytelling, and he is the perfect embodiment of the brand’s positioning, says Sharma.

From Dew to Ice – adventure is the constant

Mountain Dew Ice’s first-ever brand campaign in India featured the brand ambassador Hrithik Roshan as an action hero shooting an action sequence on a film set even while he works on overcoming his fears to win.

The brand film, conceptualized by Wunderman Thompson India, keeps the brand’s belief at the helm: in the face of any challenge there are two choices; either succumb to fear and turn back or overcome the fear and move ahead, and it is this choice that sets the real heroes apart from the rest, shares Sharma.

Mountain Dew Ice (2021):

‘Ice’ is hot in other APAC markets too

Mountain Dew has a strong presence across APAC and is activating several exciting campaign and partnerships in the region, shares Sharma.

  • The brand has a massive footprint in Philippines and launched Mountain Dew Ice in the country last year. James Reid, who is a popular musician in the face of the brand in Philippines.
  • In Korea, while adventure remains a key pillar, Mountain Dew has also tapped into the hip-hop space last year through a collaboration with artist Beenzino, wherein he worked with Mountain Dew to design a limited-edition pack.
  • Gaming is a key pillar for the brand across all countries. In Malaysia specifically, the brand took the partnership with PUBG Mobile and created a mass-scale Dew Challenge tournament.