Pepsi launches first ever soy drink in China

First of a range of new products slated for mainland market

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SHANGHAI--PepsiCo has launched its first ever soy beverage in China under a new health and wellness umbrella brand, Xin Yi Dai.

Pepsi has been testing the drink’s four flavors--plain, green tea, melon and orange--since last month in Shenyang and Shenzhen, but the product line went on sale in early May in Pepsi’s largest urban markets across China.

The U.S. food and beverage giant is promoting the drink as part of a “global strategic emphasis” on healthier drinks according to Daniel Shih, Shanghai-based president of Pepsi’s beverages business unit in China, and is “the first of many” healthy products Pepsi plans to create in China.

It’s also a reaction to innovation from the company’s chief rival, Coca-Cola Co., over the past few years in Asia. Coke has created dozens of products from Japan to Thailand to appeal to Asian consumers, who were raised on tea and juice drinks rather than sugary carbonated soft drinks.

Coke hasn’t carved out a strong position with any drinks based on soy milk, which is popular among Asians, including Chinese. Pepsi spotted an opportunity when the company decided to expand its product portfolio in the region with non-carbonated beverages.

Besides a traditional fondness for soy products in the region, the drink meets the “increasing attention to health” among Chinese consumers of all ages, said Harry Hui, PepsiCo’s Shanghai-based chief marketing officer, China, with a brand that is trendy enough to appeal to Chinese youth.

Given Pepsi’s focus on young consumers in general in China, making the brand stylish is important. The overall category is not new and soy drinks produced by local beverage companies and Hong Kong’s Vitasoy Group have been sold in the mainland for years. But they are marketed almost exclusively as breakfast products or drinks for older consumers and pregnant women, hardly selling points among the most style-oriented generation that has ever existed in China.

Soy’s benefits are respected by young consumers, “but it has an old-fashioned, outdated image. We want to launch healthy products in a modern way,” said Chris Tung, marketing director of non-carbonated beverages in Pepsi’s beverage business unit in Shanghai. “Healthy can be cool, if we do it right, and soy is a great opportunity from a product point of view.”

Contrary to the traditional image of soy brands, Pepsi is marketing Xin Yi Dai as a drink that can be consumed at any time of day with colorful packaging and marketing featuring Loh Zhi Xiang. Advertising in traditional and below-the-line media, created by DDB Worldwide, Shanghai illustrate's the slogan, "A surprise from refreshing soy drink," by posing the Taiwanese pop singer and actor with outstretched arms and a cheerful, somewhat saucy smile.

The campaign is built around the drink's "surprising, refreshing taste. The idea came from the fact that consumers [in focus groups and the testing stage] felt rather surprised that [Xin Yi Dai] tastes very differently from traditional soy milk," added Mr. Tung.

Pepsi also developed modern packaging for the brand. Instead of selling the drink in Tetra Pak cartons typically used for soy drinks, it opted for Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles that are good for chilled and fresh beverages.

If Xin Yi Dai is successful in China, Pepsi may roll out the soy drink in other markets, added Mr. Tung, "including Hong Kong after we evaluate the result in Shenzhen [a small town in Guangdong that borders the former British colony] and Shenyang. We do not have a timetable as of now."
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