PepsiCo Taps New Fountain Soda Sweetened with Sugar

Stubborn Soda is the unusual name of a new line of "craft" fountain sodas that PepsiCo plans to introduce in efforts to lure folks who go for vintage or boutique soda brands.

A healthier version of a soft drink, according to the Purchase, N.Y.-based company, Stubborn Soda will be sweetened with sugar cane, not high fructose corn syrup, and feature natural flavors, which cater to the U.S. market's penchant for healthier drinks. Adding to the unusual format, the soda will be available in kicky off-beat flavors, such as black cherry with tarragon, agave vanilla cream, pineapple cream and orange hibiscus.

After experimenting with zero-calorie natural sweeteners to revive weaker soda sales, Pepsi's push to roll out craft-type sodas stems from Americans' considerable cutback of carbonated soft drinks over the last few years in favor of tea, water, smoothies and other options. More healthy, natural and wholesome drinks are "in," beverage executives say, and the trend has prompted others like Coca-Cola to launch Coke Life, sweetened with sugar and plant-based stevia.

The move on PepsiCo's part is similar to what small craft brewers have been doing. They're stealing thunder -- and sales -- from the big beers like Budweiser and Miller. The little brewers are offering strange-sounding combinations like cherry wheat ale, cocktail-inspired brews, fruit crate pumpkin ale and maple bacon-coffee porter, so PepsiCo is trying to tap into the same kind of success, though small soda makers have a tough time making it big in the market.

The company's new soda fountain machines will look similar to a beer tapper; restaurant-goers will pull on a lever that looks like a draft beer tap. PepsiCo says it's not yet announcing restaurant clients, as Stubborn is still in the "incubation" stages, so hasn't placed any of the new machines. It plans to continue supplying its existing fountain machines carrying its major soda brands including Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist.

Most U.S. soda drinkers stay loyal to certain major brands like Pepsi and Coke, though restaurants like Chipotle are reportedly eyeing organically sweetened alternatives to accommodate diners' changing beverage preferences. Earlier this year, PepsiCo launched Mountain Dew Dewshine in glass bottles and also “made with real sugar.” In April, it said it would remove aspartame from its Diet Pepsi by August, replacing it with sucralose.