In the ever-raging battle between Coca Cola and Pepsico, Sting is King

Coca Cola outsold Pepsico in 2023 in the carbonated drinks market. But Pepsico is still ahead thanks to a little something known in Pakistan as “stimulant drinks”

There has been a major change in Pakistan’s carbonated drinks industry. In the year 2023, Coca-Cola was the most-sold carbonated drink in the country. Just over 451 million litres of Coke were sold in the last calendar year.  

This beat out Pepsi, once the biggest carbonated drink in Pakistan, which sold just over 372 million litres in 2023. This is seemingly a major shift in consumer preference. Besides the flagship products, Coca Cola also had the bigger share of the overall carbonated drinks market. 

Of the overall 1.33 billion litres of carbonated drinks sold in Pakistan last year, including all of the other brands these two companies operate such as 7Up and Sprite, Coke Pakistan had a market share of 42.7%, while Pepsico was close behind with 39.8%. 

But even though Coke Pakistan technically has more sales than Pepsico in the carbonate beverages department, Pepsico is well ahead of Coke off the back of one single product. 

Sting. 

Pepsico launched the iconic energy drink in Pakistan back in 2010. Since it is considered an energy drink, or a “stimulant drink” as it is legally labelled in Punjab, it falls under a separate category of product entirely. Over the years it has become abundantly clear that Sting’s competition is not Redbull or other canned energy drinks with ginseng (the product present in most energy drinks), but rather Coca Cola and Pepsi. 

In the 14 years since it has been around, Sting has become the fourth largest drink in Pakistan after Coca Cola, Pepsi and 7Up. And it is fast catching up with 7Up. This means it sells more than Sprite, Mirinda, Mountain Dew, and Fanta. In fact, according to the sales numbers available for 2023, Sting has sold more litres than Mountain Dew and Fanta combined.

This is all despite the fact that Sting does not (yet) come in packaging of over 500ml. Currently, this 500ml litre bottle of Sting costs Rs 100. Its competitors like Fanta, Mountain Dew, Sprite, 7Up all come in packaging of 1 litre, 1.5 litre, and in some cases even 2.25 litres and are cheaper per litre in larger packaging. These drinks are also more in demand because they are served at weddings, corporate events, and other such gatherings. Sting is not a drink of choice for such occasions. 

This presents us with a unique situation. It means Sting, despite billing itself as an energy drink, is directly in competition with carbonated drinks such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. Whatever it may claim, Sting also looks, tastes, and behaves more like a carbonated drink than an energy drink. But food and health authorities treat it as an energy drink, which can often mean regulatory scrutiny. But it seems the marketing benefit of Sting being labelled an energy drink is well worth it to Pepsico. After all, it is keeping them ahead of the competition. 

So how do we get to the bottom of the Sting miracle? Easy, we start at the beginning and move on to the numbers.

 

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Abdullah Niazi
Abdullah Niazi
Abdullah Niazi is senior editor at Profit. He can be reached at [email protected]

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