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How PepsiCo Plans to Fight Coronavirus Insomnia

By Rhian Hunt – Sep 14, 2020 at 3:28PM

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An internal competition generated the idea for a new stress-relieving product.

Aiming to break into the wellness market and help people shed COVID-19-related anxiety, PepsiCo (PEP 0.30%) unveiled a fresh product today, an L-theanine-infused beverage dubbed Driftwell. Described as a sleep aid to promote bedtime relaxation, PepsiCo's latest drink features 200 grams per serving of amino acid L-theanine and a dose of magnesium.

Driftwell's creation began before the novel coronavirus was even a blip on the radar, according to reporting by CNBC. The company began an internal competition in 2019 to design a new product line, and Driftwell, dreamed up by company employees, won the contest in January 2020. The beverage has since moved through a lightning-fast development cycle. Today's announcement by PepsiCo says the drink will be available through e-commerce sites by December 2020, and on store shelves in early 2021.

Chilled beverages in rows of aluminum cans.

Image source: Getty Images.

L-theanine, Driftwell's linchpin ingredient, is said to promote better sleep quality and ease feelings of anxiety or stress. But only small tests have currently shown this property, leading the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to rule the claims are "not sufficiently characterized." However, L-theanine is widely used as a sleep aid. "We have safety in clinical data to prove that it works," PepsiCo's VP of innovation, Emily Silver, told CNBC. 

Driftwell comes in a blackberry-lavender flavor and is both calorie-free and sugar-free. Silver also said the release is timely given COVID-19's effects on Americans' stress levels, noting the company "started this project before COVID, but especially now with all the stress, we're juggling a lot of things and need sleep."

PepsiCo managed to maintain positive cash flow through the pandemic despite a dip in sales. 

Rhian Hunt has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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