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What difference does Pepsi's new bottle make?

Pepsi has announced that it will be rolling out a new shape for its single serving, 20 ounce bottle, starting in April.  The first redesign in about 17 years.

There is a soon-to-be antique sitting in the refrigerated section of your local convenience store. The Pepsi bottle. The number two soda maker has been losing market share to Coke in the last couple of years.

So as part of its we-gotta-turn-things-around plan, it’ll be rolling out a new shape for its single serving bottles next month, the first redesign in about 17 years.

So what difference does the shape of a bottle make anyway?

For one, it affects how many you can ship at once. Square shaped bottles (yes, weird, but there are some) are the most space efficient.

You also want to think about whether the bottle will fit in a cup holder.

In the case of pepsi’s new bottle, the biggest change is to the bottom half of the bottle. It’s becoming more sculpted, with grooves to make the bottle more grippable.

"If you can grip it, that means you can open it easier, releasing that lid and have the carbonation 'Tssssss,'" says John Whaley, the industrial design manager at design firm D2M.

Of course, the average customer is thinking about that "Tssssss," and how the finger grips might enhance it, when they walk in to a store and grab a bottle, Whaley says. "But when they do pick it up, and it is ergonomically contoured, it’s those little subtleties that add to the entire experience."

Though the new Pepsi bottle isn’t all that subtle, says Tom Pirko, a beverage industry consultant at BevMark who has worked with Pepsi in the past.

When Pirko showed pictures of the new bottle, which isn’t out in stores yet, to his staff, one commented that the bottle’s designers seem to have "used the lug nut for their inspiration," he says. "This is a pretty heavy duty masculine approach to bottle design."

That masculine approach might be a good idea, since young men are Pepsi's biggest customers, according to Pirko. Pepsi soda sales declined by 4 percent last year in North America.

But Pirko warns, "changing a bottle shape isn't going to change who Pepsi is. They've got to figure out whether or not they can sell soft drinks to the American public." And as more American's link sugary drinks to obesity, Pepsi sales may have less to do with the bottle, and more to do with what's inside.

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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