CPG Playbook   //   March 19, 2024

Bubly introduces its first new product line in 6 years as it aims to take a bigger share of the better-for-you category

For the first time since its launch six years ago, Bubly is introducing a new product line to its assortment.

The Pepsi-owned brand is rolling out Bubly Burst — a new sweetened sparkling water beverage —nationwide by March 25. Bubly is introducing six flavors to its lineup, including triple berry, peach mango and watermelon lime.In the coming months, Bubly plans to extensively invest in TV commercials, out-of-home and social media advertising to promote Bubly Burst.

Beverage giant PepsiCo launched Bubly back in 2018 when sparkling water brands like LaCroix had been growing in popularity. Since then, the sparkling water category has become more crowded, each with its own unique proposition. What’s more, better-for-you brands that aim to offer a healthier version of soda have also been taking a bigger portion of beverage sales in recent years. Poppi made a splash with its first-ever Super Bowl ad, proclaiming it to be “the next chapter in the future of soda.” Competitor Olipop reportedly did around $250 million in sales last year. With its new product line, Bubly Burst appears to be going after these shoppers who have become accustomed to perusing the beverage aisle at the grocery store looking for fun, better-for-you drinks that are a little different than the standard sparkling water.

Todd Kaplan, chief marketing officer of Bubly, told Modern Retail that customers had been looking for fuller flavors in their sparkling water. He added that customers are craving the “fun of a soda” but with fewer calories and colorful branding. All of Bubly Burst’s flavors only have 10 calories or less with no added sugar. A 16.5 oz of Bubly Burst will retail for less than $2.

“We decided, why don’t we take a crack at the competition,” Kaplan said. “We think we have a really great proposition to meet those needs when you look at what the consumers are looking for and what Bubly brings to the table.”

PepsiCo doesn’t specify how much of its $91 billion 2023 revenue comes from Bubly. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Bubly achieved a $300 million annual revenue rate in 2019. For years, PepsiCo executives have been aiming for Bubly to be another billion-dollar brand in its portfolio. Kaplan said the company is hoping its investment with Bubly Burst could help the brand hit that goal.

“The beverage category is always growing with new trends, new entrants, new consumer needs as they continue to evolve,” Kaplan said. “We can really set up Bubly…to become one of the next billion-dollar brands in our portfolio.”

For a beverage giant like PepsiCo, adding another product line to its existing brand is a relatively low lift, said Nik Sharma, CEO of strategic initiatives firm Sharma Brands. He added that PepsiCo already has a much stronger distribution network and a larger marketing budget than its competitors. 

However, he said the biggest challenge for Pepsi is to cut through the noise, especially as more trendy sparkling water startups begin to gain more popularity. “The biggest challenge will probably be just making sure that the product is like something people actually want to buy in bulk,” Sharma said.

Bubly is planning to introduce Bubly Burst to shoppers through a multi-channel campaign. The company has prepared 30-second, 15-second and six-second TV commercials, which will air on NBC, Bravo, MTV and VH1 from April to May. The commercials will also air on online video channels like Peacock and Paramount+. Bubly also has a streaming sponsorship on Bravo’s Summer House and the 2024 Mean Girls movie. 

Bubly plans to roll out ads throughout the year. On TikTok, for example, the company plans to buy “TopView” placements — the ads that users see as soon as they open the app on specific days. Bubly is also launching out-of-home ads in areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Atlanta.

Kaplan said the main message of the ads is to communicate that Bubly Burst is part of the Bubly portfolio. “At the end of the day, we want shoppers to know that a brand that they know, that they love and that they trust, which is Bubly Sparkling Water, has a new product offering that has a little bit of sweetness.”