Simon Lowden, chief marketing officer for PepsiCo's Americas beverages, says the idea for Kickstart came about after the company learned through consumer research that Mountain Dew fans were looking for an alternative to traditional morning drinks such as coffee, tea and juice.
"They didn't really see anything that fit their needs," he said.
Lowden said Kickstart was developed independently from a Taco Bell breakfast drink introduced last year that combines Mountain Dew and orange juice. PepsiCo says Kickstart, which is carbonated, is also not a soda because its 5 percent juice content qualifies it to be considered a "juice drink" under guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration. A spokeswoman for the FDA said the agency doesn't have definitions for what qualifies as a soda or an energy drink.
With the growth of energy drinks such as Monster and Red Bull expected to slow, Kickstart could also signal the emergence of a new category that plays off the promise of energy and other health benefits, said John Sicher, publisher of the trade journal Beverage Digest.
In a nod to the growing concerns about sugary drinks, for example, Kickstart also uses artificial sweeteners to reduce its caloric content to about half that of regular soda; a can has 80 calories.
"It's a very interesting experiment capturing a number of attributes," Sicher said, likening it to Starbucks' Refreshers drinks, which promise "natural energy" from green coffee extract.