Mountain Dew, the soda that looks like antifreeze and tastes likes carbonated green Pixie Sticks (but sweeter) has long presented itself as the drink of people doing extreme things. “Do the Dew,” the old commercials said as hip looking teenagers and twentysomethings did skateboard tricks, mountain biked over dangerous looking terrain, bungee jumped, and generally did whatever advertising executives assume cool, trend-setting young people do.
Currently, the Mountain Dew website consists almost entirely of pictures of people snowboarding, skateboarding, and sitting in practiced, faux-casual poses. The site also features a cartoon of an obscure rapper, Joey Bada$$, picked it seems entirely for his “outrageous” name and his ability to look not-that-threatening while making gang-like hand gestures (albeit in cartoon form).
Never mind that these pictures look only slightly less contrived than Fonzie wearing a bathing suit and his leather jacket while jumping over live sharks in the “Happy Days” episode that later become the definition of uncool. Mountain Dew is extreme – perhaps even “extreme to the max,” if the ad agency has yet to hold a focus group to tell them that nobody says that anymore. In fact, the product is so hip, cool and extreme that in 2008 “Mountain” was shortened to “MTN,” because, you know, extreme skateboarders have no time to spell out words.
Though I cannot prove that no extreme athletes drink Mountain Dew, my personal experience has been that “The Dew” is a favored drink of gamers with pasty complexions. Pepsico itself seems to acknowledge that audience with the creation of MTN Dew Game Fuel, which was both tied in to the World of Warcraft videogame – a game more associated with living in your parents’ basement and not having a girlfriend than extreme sports.
Whoever bought it, though, somebody bought it, because in addition to Game Fuel, Pepsico has put out a number of Dew spinoff beverages including Code Red, LiveWire, and Voltage. Though it seems likely that nobody over the age of 30 with a job can tell you what any of these sodas taste like, I will say that each comes in a bright color more suited to powering a spaceship than ingesting into the human body.
Still, as mentioned before, these drinks are selling and Pepsico, a company not shy about finding new ways to sell sugar water, has expanded the line once again with the introduction of Kickstart – Mountain Dew for breakfast. Instead of just simply introducing its morning soda and presenting it for what it is, Pepsico instead decided to paint the beverage as a juice drink – a viable alternative to coffee, tea, or actual juice.
When one hears the term “juice drink,” one would assume that juice would be a key ingredient in said beverage. That, however would not be the case because Kickstart contains exactly 5 percent juice content, which somehow qualifies it to be considered a ‘‘juice drink’’ under guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration. To further muddy the playing field, Kickstart also has some amount of Vitamins B and C.
In many ways, this is like adding a twist of lime to your martini and calling it a healthy fruit drink. Or, to put it another way, it would be like adding a sprig of parsley to your prime rib and saying you had a salad for dinner.
Kickstart is being marketed for consumption in the morning – the one time of day where only the hungover and kids with irresponsible parents had previously consumed soda. Adding a splash of fruit juice and some vitamins does not make Kickstart healthy any more than getting than strawberry topping with your hot fudge sundae makes it a fruit plate.
Breakfast Mountain Dew may make business sense, but it’s a poor idea that shows contempt for the already questionable health of Dew drinkers. Marketing soda as vaguely good for you – even if you never exactly make that claim – seems reprehensible even if it might be good for the fiscal (but not the physical) bottom line.Daniel B. Kline can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @dbkbdc.