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PepsiCo, longtime purveyor of caffeine, aims to make you sleepy

[NEW YORK] The maker of Mountain Dew and other caffeinated soft drinks now wants to sell consumers a beverage that will help them relax and drift off to sleep.

With tastes shifting away from sugary drinks, PepsiCo is about to start selling a beverage with L-theanine, which is an amino acid and FDA-approved supplement used for relaxation and usually found in green teas. Named "Driftwell," the product was developed to ease angst and restlessness, according to Emily Silver, PepsiCo's vice president of innovation and capabilities for North America.

"The need for relaxation has only increased during the pandemic," Silver said. The new drink is part of what the company calls a "functional" category of beverages that aim to help consumers with specific needs.

With competition high and consumer interest in flagship soft drinks waning, beverage companies are exploring new formats. Coca-Cola, for example, is testing a new alcoholic drink based on the popular Topo Chico mineral water. And the industry is delving into drinks enhanced with CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient that companies say promotes relaxation without the high produced by marijuana.

Ms Silver, who said PepsiCo is positioning Driftwell as a wellness product, added that the company isn't currently exploring any alcoholic or CBD beverages. Driftwell will be sold online during the fourth quarter of 2020, and it will arrive at retailers in the first quarter of 2021.

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Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo has seen beverage sales weakened by Covid-19 and the related shutdown of restaurants and entertainment venues. This has been offset by higher sales of the company's snack brands such as Tostitos, Fritos and Cheetos, as well as its Quaker breakfast foods, as consumers eat more at home.

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