Soft drink giant PepsiCo (Pepsi) has reimagined its ‘cola experience’ with the announcement of its newest carbonated beverage, Nitro Pepsi.

Instantly recognisable from its iconic red, blue, and white spherical logo, Pepsi is set to innovate its range of carbonated beverages by infusing its cola with nitrogen. 

Traditionally using carbon dioxide (CO2) to inject ‘fizz’ in the drink, the smaller bubbles associated with nitrogen are claimed by Pepsi to provide the drink with a ‘creamy, smooth’ texture – not present with pure CO2 carbonation. 

The new range will also feature a widget placed at the bottom of every can, often seen in beers – notably canned Guinness – to help enhance the drink’s softer texture. 

Already used in some craft beers, coffees and a staple in high-end gourmet coffee shops, nitrogen reduces the ‘bite’ in fizzy drinks caused by the reaction between CO2 and water, which creates carbonic acid. 

In contrast, nitrogen does not react at all to water and lacks this characteristic ‘bite’ – a feature that could become divisive amongst soft drink connoisseurs, as nitrogenated drinks carry the risk of making a beverage taste flat. 

Despite this, nitrogen has the capacity to markedly reduce the heavy carbonation present in canned soft drinks, potentially attracting a whole new consumer-base. 

“While soda has been a beverage of choice for so many consumers over the past century, some people still cite heavy carbonation as a barrier to enjoying an ice-cold cola,” said Todd Kaplan, VP of Marketing, Pepsi. 

“Much like how nitrogen has transformed the beer and coffee categories, we believe Nitro Pepsi is a huge leap forward for the cola category and will redefine cola for years to come.” 

In terms of sustainability, however, this leap forward could prove to be a step backwards. 

Pepsi is listed as one of the world’s four largest plastic packaging producers and, alongside Coca-Cola, Unilever and Nestle, is responsible for creating 4.6m tonnes of CO2 emissions each year by burning plastic waste in developing countries. 

With the increasingly widespread adoption and development of carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies, the introduction of nitrogen creates a missed opportunity for Pepsi to harness and utilise captured waste CO2 for beverage carbonation.

Although with several recent instances of worldwide CO2 shortages, use of nitrogen could reduce risk associated with future CO2 supply chain issues.

The Nitro Pepsi range is currently set for nationwide US release on 28th March.