Food Trends

Pepsi selling 'craft' soda at select locations

Pepsi's new brand is made with fair trade cane sugar.

Pepsi's new brand is made with fair trade cane sugar.  (Caleb's Soda)

Pepsi is hoping to keep up with the times with a soda called "Caleb's Kola" that comes in glass bottles reminiscent of a bygone era.

The name is a nod to the pharmacist from North Carolina credited with creating with Pepsi's formula in the 1890s, Caleb Bradham.

According to its website, the drink is only being sold at select CostCo locations in Maryland, New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The industry tracker Beverage Digest, which first reported the drink's rollout Tuesday, said PepsiCo plans to eventually make it available at other retailers.

A representative for PepsiCo Inc., based in Purchase, New York, declined to provide further comment.

A 10-ounce bottle of Caleb's Kola has 110 calories and 29 grams of sugar, according to the site. The drink is made with cane sugar, kola nut extract and a "special blend of spices."

It's the latest sign of soda giants trying new strategies to win back customers. Americans have been cutting back on soda for years, with executives blaming the decline on concerns over the high fructose corn syrup in soda, and more recently, the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas.

At the same time, marketers have noted that people are gravitating toward products they feel use real ingredients. Simon Lowden, chief marketing officer for PepsiCo's North American beverage unit, recently said in a phone interview that a version of Pepsi made with "real sugar" has been performing well.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are also planning wider launches of their namesake sodas made with sugar and stevia, a natural sweetener that has no calories. Both those drinks, Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True, use green packaging, an apparent nod to the drink's natural ingredients.

Marketers have also noted that people in their 20s and 30s in particular — a group referred to as millennials — are particularly drawn to products they feel are authentic. Caleb's Kola is apparently being positioned as a "craft" soda, with its website using the hashtag #honorincraft.

John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, said in a phone interview Caleb's Kola is the first instance he can recall of one of the major soda makers trying a craft soda.