In February 2013, PepsiCo launched Mountain Dew Kickstart in two flavors, Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch. This mid-calorie beverage line was targeted at morning beverage drinkers, with vitamins, 5% fruit juice, and slightly increased caffeine content over traditional Mountain Dew.
Pepsi claimed that Kickstart was one of their “most successful beverage product launches in the past 10 years,” with retail sales surpassing $150 million during the first year of sales.
In an interesting twist from the established branding for the “Kickstart” name, the company has launched two new flavors targeted to “Kickstart Your Night.” These new entries include Mtn Dew Kickstart Limeade and Mtn Dew Kickstart Black Cherry.
What seems to be missing from the 2nd phase of Kickstarts is the inclusion of vitamins. The original Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch flavors contained ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), niacinamide (Vitamin B3), calcium pantothenate (Vitamin B5), and pyridoxine hydrochloride (Vitamin B6).
Instead, the new batch seem to have an emphasis on “Electrolytes for Taste” — as claimed on the cans. Specifically, there is an increased level of potassium in both of these drinks vs. the original flavors. Limeade features 85 mg, while Black Cherry packs 120 mg. Contrast that with 55 mg in original Orange Citrus and 50 mg in Fruit Punch.
On the same electrolyte theme, the sodium levels are roughly the same in Black Cherry (170 mg) when compared with original Orange Citrus having 180 mg and Fruit Punch having 170 mg. However, new Limeade has a substantial increase with 250 mg.
Just like the initial Kickstart flavors, the “Night” editions are sweetened not only with high fructose corn syrup, but also acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) and sucralose.
Caffeine content for all Kickstart flavors is 5.75 mg/oz, which is higher than original Mountain Dew (4.5 mg/oz), but lower than Mountain Dew Game Fuel (6.0 mg/oz).
Now that we’ve looked at what makes Kickstart tick inside, let’s take a look at the individual flavors.
Mtn Dew Kickstart Limeade, like its predecessors, comes in a 16 oz can, this time with a familiar green/black Mountain Dew color scheme. The drink itself is very similar in color to original Mountain Dew, with a citrus Dew scent present, but perhaps with a tad more lime emphasis. The taste is in line with what you would expect from something branded as a Dew beverage, with a very citrusy initial flavor that transitions into a “puckery” lime experience, hinting at sour. While this drink doesn’t have a grapefruit flavor, it would feel comfortable next to the taste profiles of Squirt and Mountain Dew White Out. Overall, this is a very tasty drink, though the aftertaste does suffer from the use of artificial sweeteners. It’s pretty hard to hide those flavors in a citrus beverage.
Shifting over to Mtn Dew Kickstart Black Cherry, we are greeted with a dark red/black color scheme on the cans. Out of the 4 Kickstart flavors, this is probably the most cola-like in the bunch, showcasing a heavier taste profile that is quite distant from what you’d expect from Mountain Dew. With a drink dark red in color and smelling somewhat like Mountain Dew Code Red — with a tad more cherry flavor — Black Cherry doesn’t feature many citrus elements in the taste. What it does offer is a very sweet and smooth black cherry flavor experience, capped off by a decent attempt at masking the aftertaste of artificial sweeteners — though you still can easily spot them. Of the two flavors, I preferred Limeade because it was more like a traditional Dew, while others liked Black Cherry due to their preference of something less harsh.
Is the shift away from mornings an attempt to grow the brand in a more traditional way? In our initial Kickstart review, we noted that the “history, average flavor, and established sales patterns will prompt an unsuccessful attempt of cracking the A.M., despite the powerhouse Mtn Dew name.” Yet, Kickstart is still around, including the original morning-targeted flavors. That said, repositioning the beverage to a more traditional energy drink focus is probably a safer move. Limeade and Black Cherry are tasty flavors, though with the rebooted definition of what “Kickstart” means (i.e. not just for mornings), you have to wonder about marketplace confusion. Are potential customers going to ask, “just what is this Kickstart thing about anyway?” Previously, it was an easy answer… “a morning Mountain Dew.” Now, not so much.
When you strip away the marketing, the Kickstart brand basically represents a mid-calorie energy drink, using the Mountain Dew name in an attempt to reverse the trend of declining carbonated soft drink sales by promising increased caffeine, fruit juice, and functional benefits… all sold at a higher pricepoint. Whether that be positioned for morning or evening, it really doesn’t matter.
Mountain Dew Kickstart Limeade
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, white grape juice concentrate, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium hexametaphosphate (to protect flavor), salt, gum arabic, caffeine, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness), potassium sorbate (preserves freshness), potassium citrate, potassium chloride, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, glycerol ester of rosin, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), sucrose acetate isobutyrate, Yellow 5.
A 16 oz can contains 80 calories, 250 mg sodium, and 20 g carbs (19 g sugars). Caffeine content of 5.75 mg/oz.
Mountain Dew Kickstart Limeade
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, white grape juice concentrate, citric acid, caramel color, natural flavor, sodium hexametaphosphate (to protect flavor), potassium sorbate (preserves freshness), gum arabic, caffeine, potassium citrate, potassium chloride, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, Red 40, glycerol ester of rosin, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), salt, sucrose acetate isobutyrate.
A 16 oz can contains 80 calories, 170 mg sodium, and 20 g carbs (19 g sugars). Caffeine content of 5.75 mg/oz.