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PepsiCo wants to help the caffeinated masses get better sleep with its new relaxation drink

Say hello to Driftwell. The perfect nighttime antidote to . . . soda?

PepsiCo wants to help the caffeinated masses get better sleep with its new relaxation drink
[Photo: PepsiCo; rawpixel]

The company that has kept people awake through boring classes and business meetings and fueled millions of mornings after all-night partying now wants to help the caffeinated masses unwind.

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Today, PepsiCo is launching its newest beverage, the de-stressing and relaxation-promoting Driftwell.

The calorie- and sugar-free noncarbonated water, flavored with a hint of blackberry and lavender, contains 200 milligrams of L-theanine and 10% of the daily value of magnesium. Driftwell sprouted from an employee incubator program in January.

The 7.5-ounce mini cans, with the tagline “Sip into relaxation,” go on sale online in December—a notoriously stressful time, even more so during the coronavirus pandemic—and will be available in stores in the first quarter of 2021. The suggested retail price is $17.99 for a 10-pack.

“We started this project before COVID, but especially now with all the stress, we’re juggling a lot of things and need sleep,” says Emily Silver, vice president of innovation and capabilities at PepsiCo Beverages North America. “The concentration around sleep wellness or sleep hygiene has massively increased in the last few years.”

People may not be perky enough to realize how important sleep is. PepsiCo touts findings by Gallup and the American Psychological Association in which 55% of Americans report having “high stress” throughout the day, while 45% of Americans say stress makes them lie awake at night, and 21% feel more stress when they’re unable to sleep.

But research studies about sleep abound, and amid the global pandemic, polls have found that catching enough zzz’s has become even more elusive.

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Look to PepsiCo’s own earnings reports for answers. Over-the-counter sleep remedies are a $1 billion business, according to the company, quoting the analytics firm IRI.

What can your food do?

Driftwell falls into the broader category of so-called functional food and drinks, which aren’t new. People have come to expect what they consume to do more for them—from Activia yogurt’s digestive boost to the calmness of CBD gummies. It’s a trend that Darren Seifer, food and beverage analyst at the research firm NPD Group, expects to continue, especially with everything going on now.

“You can have function in the foods and beverages you’re consuming,” he says. “It’s not just about thirst. It’s not just about sustenance. It’s about helping you feel good.”

He adds that functional beverages “are able to provide the taste consumers like in a format that’s convenient,” which may give them an edge in the marketplace. “For the time being, health is more about getting through the day and staying focused on what your basic needs are and providing stress relief,” Seifer says.

Other sleep-related foods include Nightfood ice cream, Dream Water, and Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime tea.

Big Soda is taking hits from all sides. Bottled water is now outselling pop; rising obesity rates are a growing health concern; brands are emphasizing healthy eating and lifestyle choices; and various municipalities around the United States have even implemented so-called soda taxes.

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To counter that, the industry is looking for variety, and arguably no one as much as PepsiCo. In addition to its namesake cola, the company’s brands include Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Quaker, Tropicana, Rice-A-Roni, Aquafina, Aunt Jemima, and Sabra.

According to Silver, Driftwell marks one of the Purchase, New York-based soda giant’s first forays into the functional beverage space and one of the first times the company is making a hard claim about an ingredient.

Seifer adds that companies will always look for new ways to go where consumers go. “While the biggest behaviors are carbonated soft drinks and juices, they have been losing share to other players,” he explains. “It’s a way to diversify your portfolio, so if the consumers are shifting, it’s within your own portfolio.”

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