As the dawn of 2023 brought a fresh zest to the soft drink landscape, a familiar name decided to ride the wave of change.
Sierra Mist, a long-loved choice for lemon-lime soda enthusiasts, unfolded its new persona, Starry, aiming to capture the effervescent enthusiasm of a younger demographic.
This wasn’t merely a change of label, but a bold stride into evolving market dynamics, offering a (hopefully) reinvigorated flavor profile to tingle the taste buds of citrus soda aficionados.
As Starry twinkles onto the soda scene, it brings along changes in flavor, branding, and market strategy, and promises a crisp, refreshing experience.
Journey with us as we pop the top on the story behind Sierra Mist’s spirited transition to Starry, exploring the fizz and flavor that mark this phase in PepsiCo’s lemon-lime saga.
The Sierra Mist backstory
Sierra Mist was launched in 1999, aiming to carve a niche for a less sweet lemon-lime soda. It was a successor to earlier PepsiCo lemon-lime sodas like Storm and lemon-lime Slice, which didn’t capture the market as hoped.
Back in the 90s, the “Sierra Mist” was chosen from a list of over 1,000 possible names. (For fans of the old Shasta soda brand, naming another fruity bubbly soft drink named after some another major Northern California mountains/mountain ranges seemed a little bit like cheating.)
In the early years after its late 90s debut, Sierra Mist tried to create a unique space for itself in a market where Sprite and 7Up reigned supreme, yet it consistently trailed behind these behemoths.
Even more recently, the story didn’t get much better. The sales of Sierra Mist fizzled further, with a 30% dip in sales volume in 2020, followed by a 20% slide in 2021, as per the bubbly data from Statista. This downward dance of digits reflects a soda scene seeking a spritz of something new. (Check out the sparkling statistics here.)
Hello, Starry – and goodbye Sierra Mist
In January 2023, Sierra Mist became to Starry, marking a strategic move by PepsiCo to rejuvenate its lemon-lime soda range and connect with a younger audience. The change was driven by Sierra Mist’s lack of a long-standing legacy and lower market share compared to its well-established competitors.
The target market? Gen Z, for whom the “Starry Hits Different” slogan was apparently created.
Pepsico said that they’re trying to reach “a consumer who is simultaneously optimistic about the future and brings a sense of irreverence to their everyday.” And thus, “Starry is bright, optimistic, and rooted in culture and fun.”
How is Starry different?
Diving into the flavor profiles, Starry brings a different sweetness to the table, thanks to its high-fructose corn syrup content, veering away from what some people considered the intense sweetness provided by Sierra Mist’s cane sugar (which was a somewhat recent reversion after having corn syrup for many years).
While the taste change isn’t obvious to many people — soda fans think of it more as a rebranding than a new drink — Starry has a slightly crisper flavor with citrus notes that are a little more pronounced, setting it apart from Sierra Mist’s softer flavor. This new soda has drawn comparisons to Sprite, situating it as a more direct rival in the lemon-lime soda market.
What people think of Starry compared to Sierra Mist
The consumer reception towards this transition has been mixed. While Sierra Mist had a relatively minor market share, the intention behind Starry was to gain a stronger foothold in the soda market. It’s too soon to tell if that’s going to happen.
Some people appreciate Starry’s somewhat stronger citrus flavor and aromatic profile, while others remain loyal to the taste of Sierra Mist… and may even be stepping out with Sprite.
Overall, the feedback we’ve seen showcases the unpredictable world of taste and brand allegiance, painting a lively picture of the cutthroat soda battlefield. Yet, when it comes to the restaurant realm, the critique on this transition seems to be as elusive as a fizz escaping a freshly opened soda bottle.