- PepsiCo's latest drink from Rockstar Energy is infused with hemp seed.
- The company wants to draw in younger, female consumers to the energy drink category.
- Hemp seed has little to no CBD, and food and beverages infused with it don't have the same legal restrictions as those made with the cannabis compound.
PepsiCo's latest drink from Rockstar Energy wants to help consumers chill out.
Infused with hemp seed oil, spearmint, lemon balm and only about 80 milligrams of caffeine, Pepsi is hoping to attract younger, female consumers with the drink. Men between the ages of 18 and 34 years consume the most energy drinks, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
"It's a combination of herbals that can help us to relax, but not to sleep," said Fabiola Torres, PepsiCo general manager and chief marketing officer of its energy business.
Other iterations of Rockstar drinks contain anywhere from 160 milligrams to 300 milligrams of caffeine.
Rockstar Unplugged will be available in slimmer 12-ounce cans in three flavors: blueberry, passion fruit and raspberry cucumber. Beginning Tuesday, the beverage will be available nationwide, starting at $1.99 per can.
This isn't Rockstar's first foray into hemp. In April, the brand launched Rockstar Energy + Hemp in Germany. PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta told analysts that month that the German test was specific to that country, which has a sizable hemp market. Torres said Rockstar Unplugged's formula is quite different, using half the amount of caffeine than the German beverage.
While many consumers may think of hemp seed as synonymous with CBD, there are some differences. Both come from hemp plants, but hemp seed has little to no CBD. It also has much less dramatic effects when consumed.
"[Hemp seed] doesn't have any functionality, it comes from an herb," Torres said. "Imagine you're drinking an herbal tea, with caffeine. That's it."
It's currently illegal for companies to sell CBD-infused food and beverages across state lines, keeping large players like Pepsi and its rival Coca-Cola out of the fray. A number of smaller players with less to lose have introduced their own CBD drinks, but the category remains tiny. Only 1.8% of Americans purchased a CBD drink in the last three months of 2021, according to Brightfield Group.
Hemp seed-infused food and drinks have no such ban in the U.S., but they have failed to catch on like in Germany or other markets.
"This is new territory, so we're trying to test and learn and really have fun with it," Torres said.
Perkins Coie served as an advisor to PepsiCo on legal compliance for its use of hemp seed oil.
Shares of Pepsi have climbed 26% over the last 12 months, giving it a market value of $239 billion.