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Food & Beverage companies should take note of Throwback success

Food and beverage companies long ago decided that high fructose corn syrup was the way to go. Overnight nearly every product that once contained “sugar” was sweetened with some mysterious substance called “high fructose corn syrup.”

Then, with the launch of a single product in April 2009, PepsiCo set off a consumer products firestorm. Throwback, Pepsi’s namesake cola product made with real sugar instead of HFCS, took the soft drink market completely by surprise. Consumers loved it and asked for more. Pepsi responded by teasing that the product would only be available “for a limited time,” a tried and true PR strategy that continues to work. Their PR firm must be hard at work, just ask McDonalds.

When consumer enthusiasm for the product reached a fevered pitch, Pepsi responded to the increased demand by introducing two parallel products – Throwback Mountain Dew and Throwback Dr. Pepper. These parallel product lines initiated a Cola Civil War between fans of the traditional recipe and those willing to stand and stare at store shelves hoping to find an errant case of Throwback.

There are multiple successful PR strategies at work here. First, Pepsi rolled out something entirely unique in its market segment of the food and beverage industry while managing to integrate nostalgia as a marketing focus of a new product.

Second, Pepsi created competition within its own product line, cultivating dedicated fan bases for each line. Third, Pepsi created urgency by wrapping its PR in phrases like “for a limited time” and “limited edition.” This is a great campaign that their PR firm initiated.

And, finally, Pepsi used the negative groundswell against HFCS to imply – without ever actually saying – Throwback was a healthier product. Sure, it’s still a soft drink, but hey…it’s “made with real sugar.” This is ample evidence that, when it comes to effective PR, no trend should be ignored.

How will other soft drink manufacturers respond? Time will tell.

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