Pepsi’s chief marketer opens up about his vision to take the soft drink brand to the next level – with everything from cola-infused pepperoni to a diversified, tech-focused marketing strategy.
Pepsi today unveiled its latest cheeky product activation: cola-infused pepperoni pizza.
The move is an extension of the brand’s ‘Better With Pepsi’ messaging platform – which gained attention last year with the clever campaign that snuck the brand’s iconic circular logo on to fast food takeout bags, suggesting that burgers pair best with Pepsi.
Now, the soda purveyor says it’s not just burgers, but another of America’s favorite meals – pizza – that is best served with a cool, refreshing Pepsi. In fact, the brand claims that’s why, among national pizza chains Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Papa John’s, Marco’s Pizza, Papa Murphy’s and Hungry Howie’s Pizza, 72% currently serve Pepsi, per a recent survey.
“The reason why a lot of [pizza shops] pour Pepsi is because they know there’s some science that backs [the pairing,]” says Pepsi chief marketing officer Todd Kaplan. “The bite of acidity that comes from the Pepsi really complements the sauce and the cheese … and the Italian spices are complemented by the citrusy pop that’s unique to a Pepsi.” Ultimately, he says, the brand figured that a pepperoni pizza would be the best kind of slice to pair with a Pepsi, thanks to the additional Italian spices and savory umami that comes with the meat.
Kaplan notes that pepperoni was first created by Italian-Americans at the turn of the century in lower Manhattan – “to enhance the taste of pizza … to bring out the cheese and sauce flavors.” And since it’s been shown that consumers think Pepsi enhances the flavor of pizza, the brand got thinking. “What would happen if we brought these two things together?” says Kaplan.
So the brand tasked the Culinary Institute of America Consulting – a business arm of the renowned cooking school – to create a new, citrusy, cola-y spin on the country’s favorite pizza topping. The one-of-a-kind recipe uses 100% pork meat infused with Pepsi Zero Sugar, pairing Italian herbs with Pepsi’s citrus and caramel notes. The sausage is smoked for hours and finished with an additional Pepsi glaze. Finally, the individual pepperoni slices are branded with a crispy Pepsi logo and layered atop a pizza. “It is absolutely delicious,” Kaplan says.