GlobalData: PepsiCo's Sting competing with Coca-Cola's Thums Up Charged Berry Bolt in India could put niche energy drinks category on level playing field with carbonates, which contributed nearly 20% of overall soft drinks volumes in India in 2021

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September 9, 2022 (press release) –

PepsiCo’s mass affordable ‘Sting’ has been a game changer in the Indian energy drinks market. With Coca-Cola entering the arena with Thums Up Charged Berry Bolt earlier this year, the competition is heating up. The rivalry between the two conglomerates will propel the niche energy drinks category to new heights and can even erode the share of carbonates, one of India’s favorite refreshments, according to GlobalData, a leading data, and analytics company.

Bobby Verghese, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “When PepsiCo launched Sting in 2017 as a mainstream energy drink for INR50 ($0.63) per 250ml can, it was not viewed as a challenger to Red Bull, a popular imported brand retailing at INR110 ($1.38) per 250ml can. However, in 2020, Sting took a step further with its ‘mass affordable’ strategy by launching 250ml PET bottles for INR20 ($0.25), almost at par with cola drinks. With this competitive move, PepsiCo took Sting energy drinks down to the highly price-sensitive mass-retail market in India.”

Subsequently, Red Bull’s sales declined annually by 21% in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted imports*. However, Sting’s volumes surged by 243.7%* as the product was produced locally and available through retail stores and ecommerce portals. Moreover, the pocket-friendly prices elevated the perceived value-for-money of the energy drink amid the spiraling inflation.

Verghese adds: “Even as Red Bull’s supplies resumed, Sting’s march was unstoppable, and it saw a 440% jump in the brand’s volume sales in 2021. As the Indian energy drinks market grew eightfold during 2017-2021, Sting’s volume share also skyrocketed from 2.5% in 2017 to a whopping 86% by 2021*.”

Coca-Cola India is tapping this new lucrative segment with its Thums Up Charged Berry Bolt. It mimics the red formulation color, packaging label, the 250ml PET bottle pack, and the INR20 ($0.25) price tag of Sting. Though the difference in caffeine content and the calorie count is negligible, Sting has the early bird advantage, while Charged wields the Thums Up brand’s loyal following. Both brands have roped in leading Bollywood actors as brand ambassadors. As the brands are evenly-matched, the taste will be the main deciding factor for consumers.

Verghese concludes: “Both Sting and Charged will benefit from the considerable R&D, distribution, and marketing prowess of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. In the long term, the competition will only accelerate the growth of the mainstream energy drinks segment. This can put the niche energy drinks category on a level playing field with the carbonates category, which contributed nearly 20% of the overall soft drinks volumes in India in 2021*.”

*GlobalData Consumer Intelligence Center–Market Analyzers, accessed in September 2022

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