For decades Mountain Dew has served as nectar of the geeks for its high-octane formula infused with sugar and caffeine, bestowing on spotty adolescents the courage to endure dangerous quests while gaming obsessively with World of Warcraft or Dungeons & Dragons. As a quick fix for failing focus, 16 ounces of Mountain Dew brings 72 milligrams of caffeinated vigilance to the wee hours, allowing students to cram for finals, compose schmaltzy love letters, or plot payback for teenage tormentors.
In a bid to break into the anxiety drink market, PepsiCo has produced its own mutant energy booster called Kickstart. Brand appeal targets thirsty consumers between 18 and 24 who ache for the Dew’s diabetic smoothness but with stronger tremors.
Kickstart courts those Millennials who reject coffee and tea as morning motivators. The carbonated beverage features trace elements of vitamins B and C, along with 92 milligrams of caffeine in a 5% juice solution. However, Kickstart will neither call its contents a soda nor confess its role as an energy drink.
Can Kickstart pack enough punch to take on Monsters and Rockstars?
PepsiCo offers its concoction as a hybrid alternative to Monster, Rockstar, Earl Grey, and coffee. However, Kickstart won’t attract young consumers who seek their buzz from organic squeeze-ins, or parents who dread sleepless offspring.
Connoisseurs of classic Dew won’t drool for the acrid aftertaste endemic to most anxiety potions. Meanwhile, mavens of canned nectar will still crave the Dew’s sickly citrus tang and bubbly bursts that spark their rocket-powered sugar rush. Nutritional value never guides our choice of carbonated poison.
Besides, jitter junkies know the best energy drinks taste like battery acid and would send hamsters on a death ride to Nowheresville. We chug anxiety drinks for the spike in heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure, powered by 142 milligrams of caffeine in a 16-ounce can of Amp. We don’t expect flavor inside vacuum-sealed paranoia. We quaff the same size can of Mountain Dew for its syrupy savor and insulin surge fueled by a sissy 72 milligrams of caffeine.
Can Kickstart survive in spite of competitors and a culture that worships coffee?
Cowboys drank rotgut popskull, Adam’s ale (water) from hoofprints, and tin cups of brown gargle betwixt cattle drives. Wranglers wouldn’t frump about blistering brew as long as it didn’t taste of belly wash and kicked like a mule. A 16-ounce mug of Arbuckle’s likely boasted a whopping 400 milligrams of caffeine, or more if made properly. Gourmet words like amoretto and mocha never had a chance to infect buckaroo lingo.
Seniors at my YMCA nod appreciation when I tilt the urn to drain bitter dregs and spout "The only thing worse than bad coffee is no coffee." Long before the low-fat half-caf caramel macchiato soy latte, folks swilled Joe like meth in a mug, focusing on pump-thumping effect over flavor. Varnish remover still stands tall as a cultural rite of passage for teens who yearn to appear all grown up.
Baby Boomers at 55 and older represent America’s fastest growing segment to adopt caffeine addiction. Post-war bambinos of the 50s pine for java strong and bitter, like their partners, or sweet but bracing, like their internists. Boomers may yet see competition for market share from about 80 million young’uns in their late teens to early thirties, who comprise the largest generation ever to draw breath in the Home of the Brave.
Generation Y grew up with technology. They buy customized morning thunder through cell phones, live on Wi-Fi and social media, and patronize coffee houses with lumpy furniture and green mission statements. They savor exotic teas and bean juice for flavor, aroma, and jolt in a welcome social setting.
Big chains like Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, and Tim Horton's battle for the loyalty of locals with sophisticated campaigns, coupons, free drinks and music downloads. The Caffeinated-Industrial Complex is winning back energy lovers who’ve grown accustomed to scoring a buzz from an acid bath of synthetic compounds used to strip the rust off garbage scows.
Sorry Kickstart, you’re a limp-wristed brand of snake oil, helpless to impress post-adolescent immortals, who already swill lethal levels of Red Bull just to test resolve at conquering fear.