Move over, coffee. PepsiCo is launching a morning pick-me-up called Kickstart that will have the flavor of Mountain Dew and a hint of fruit juice, along with Vitamins B and C. Pepsi insists the caffeinated breakfast beverage is not another energy drink. Kickstart doesn't officially fall within that classification — under scrutiny recently due to alleged links to health problems and even death — because its jolt of caffeine is far more mild than the levels found in beverages like Monster, 5-Hour Energy, and Red Bull. A similar concoction is already available at Taco Bell, which mixes Mountain Dew and orange juice into what the restaurant chain calls "Mtn. Dew A.M." Where did the idea for Kickstart come from? PepsiCo marketing officer Simon Lowden says consumer research tipped off the company that Mountain Dew fans wanted a morning alternative to coffee, tea, and juice.
This is a godsend — "for those of you who wake up and chug Red Bull," says Sierra Tishgart at Grub Street New York. The five percent juice content is supposed to make Kickstart appear like a harmless, fruity alternative to other traditional breakfast drinks. But, PepsiCo promises it will come with "the right amount of kick," which is a sly way of saying "a potentially lethal jolt of caffeine." It's true "Kickstart does have far less caffeine than energy drinks like Red Bull," but PepsiCo has "taken the liberty of labeling the two flavors 'energizing orange citrus' and 'energizing fruit punch,' and has packaged it to look like Monster. Subtle." This stuff isn't destined for many breakfast tables as a substitute for coffee, tea, or juice... it's meant for "college libraries and morning pregame parties."
Mountain Dew as a breakfast drink? "Yow," says David Colker at The Los Angeles Times. But, honestly, it's hardly a surprise that Mountain Dew — "already long-known for its caffeine content" — wants to be the source of your morning jolt. As Jeff Klineman, editor of the BevNet online and print trade publications, puts it: "For a long time before energy drinks, there was Mountain Dew. It was the official drink of gamers and truckers before Monster and Rockstar came along." PepsiCo isn't looking to be the next coffee — it's just trying to catch up and snare the niche morning market already targeted by caffeine-juice combinations Monster Khaos and Rockstar Punched. The only surprise is that it took a high-energy soda like Mountain Dew "so long to come out with an official breakfast drink."
At The Blaze, Becket Adams concedes that Kickstart won't suit all tastes — but points out that coffee and tea don't, either. If you don't like traditional morning fare, Kickstart might just "perk you up," Adams says. PepsiCo isn't going after everyone when it releases the new drink later this month. It's just trying to reach "Mountain Dew fans at a new time of day: morning." As an added bonus, Kickstart might just give the company "a side-door into the fast-growing energy drink market without getting tangled in any of its controversies."