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The Street
The Street
Daniel Kline

Pepsi kills a popular soda, but a key rival has an alternative

While fast-food chains and coffee companies traditionally offer seasonal flavors, soda companies generally do not.

You can largely blame Starbucks for this as its famed Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) sort of opened the floodgates for seasonal offerings. The PSL was certainly not the first beverage brought back at roughly the same time every year, but it was such a huge hit that seemingly every rival and restaurant had to copy it.

McDonald's, of course, had the Shamrock Shake which it first introduced in 1967. That minty shake came back each year for St. Patrick's Day and it was a hit, but Burger King and Wendy's never offered their own take on it.  

Related: Pepsi quietly killed a beloved soda (Coca-Cola has an alternative)

Soda brands — at least the big two in Coca-Cola (KO) -) and PepsiCo — have mostly avoided this trend. In recent years, they have ramped up their limited-time offers (LTOs) and special flavors, but they rarely follow a seasonal schedule.

Coke, for example, has done its secret flavor Fanta promotion more than once, but that's more a gimmick than a seasonal offer. Both companies, however, had one clear exception as they offered seasonal cranberry-based flavors for the Christmas holiday season.

Coca-Cola has Winter Spiced Cranberry Sprite, which generally comes back in early October and stays on shelves through Christmas. PepsiCo (PEP) -) used to have a similar product, Cranberry Sierra Mist, but that flavor was quietly eliminated when Pepsi replaced the entire Sierra Mist line with Starry earlier this year.

Cranberry fans, however, have another option that might be a more adult taste than Winter Spiced Cranberry Sprite and the dearly departed Cranberry Sierra Mist.

PepsiCo no longer makes Sierra Mist.

Image source: TheStreet

Canada Dry Ginger Ale has a cranberry seasonal flavor

While Canada Dry has arguably the best ginger ale on the market, its owner, Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) -) comes in a distant third in the soda business. While Coke and Pepsi have massive advertising budgets that it spreads out across multiple brands, the number three soda maker seems to focus its soft drink advertising budget on its namesake Dr. Pepper product.   

You very rarely see an ad for Canada Dry Ginger Ale and the cranberry version of the soda is a virtual secret. Canada Dry does, however, bring Canada Dry Cranberry Ginger Ale back on a seasonal basis each holiday season. writer Amy McCarthy described the soda and sang its praises on the popular website

"What’s nonsensical, however, is that Canada Dry limits its distribution of cranberry ginger ale to only the holiday months because it’s truly the world’s most perfect soda. The tartness from the cranberry pairs perfectly with ginger ale’s mild spice. It’s perfectly crisp, and doesn’t leave that cloying film of sugar in your mouth like the average soda," she wrote.

Canada Dry Cranberry Ginger Ale, like the company's core ginger ale product, is also caffeine-free.

Keurig Dr Pepper keeps an eye on pricing

While it's not known for innovation in the way Coke and Pepsi are, Keurig Dr Pepper has been making small gains in growing its market share. The company has also been focusing on developing consumer trends, which CEO Robert Gamgort talked about during his company's third-quarter earnings call.

"The consumer remains healthy with demand resilient and category elasticity is manageable. Even so, consumers are closely calibrating where and how they shop. For instance, growth in club and other value-oriented channels has accelerated while the convenience of e-commerce and pickup and delivery services continues to resonate well after any pandemic-related uplift would have normalized," he said. ,

Price and value have been business drivers for Keurig Dr Pepper.

"Consumers remain responsive to high-quality innovation and activation, but price and package architecture is another increasingly important dimension, including smaller pack sizes that hit key price points and multipacks that offer value and convenience," he added.

Gamgort has also seen another trend that impacts his company's sales.

"We also see some migration of lower to middle-income households towards at-home meal and beverage occasions, which should benefit our more essential categories like CSDs (canned soft drinks) and coffee," he shared.

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