Starry vs Sierra Mist: PepsiCo’s new lemon-lime pop ‘very similar to Sprite’

Bruno Cooke January 11, 2023
Starry vs Sierra Mist: PepsiCo’s new lemon-lime pop ‘very similar to Sprite’
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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PepsiCo’s launch of Starry, a new lemon and lime soda aimed at Gen Z consumers, has been a long time coming, but some people are still trying to work out to what extent it is different to Sierra Mist.

The soft drink giant officially started introducing Starry on January 1, 2023. 

But PepsiCo reportedly purchased the domain name starrylemonlime.com on July 8, 2022, meaning it has been planning the launch for several months.

Starry is poised to compete with The Coca-Cola Company’s Sprite and Keurig Dr Pepper’s 7 Up, and it has already made its way to stores around the US.

The sign that greets visitors and employees to Pepsico headquarters 19 July 2005 in Purchase, NY. The price of shares in French food and drinks giant Danone surged more than 10 percent 19 July, 2005 on renewed speculation that Pepsico of the United States was considering a hostile takeover bid for the group. Investors seized on remarks made late 18 July by the president of the economic affairs commission at the French parliament, Patrick Ollier, who said the government was “concerned” by the possibility of a bid by Pepsico. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP) (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

What is the difference between Starry and Sierra Mist?

Comparing promotional materials and ingredients lists, PepsiCo’s Starry and Sierra Mist soft drinks appear to be, for most intents and purposes, the same drink.

They are at least very similar. Both Starry and Sierra Mist are sodas flavoured with lemon and lime; they are both caffeine-free and available in original (with high fructose corn syrup) and Zero Sugar (with aspartame) varieties; and they are both advertised as being “crisp” and “refreshing.”

Those who have already managed to get their hands on a can of Starry have said it tastes “very similar to Sprite,” one of its key competitors. 

Starry supposedly has “more bite” than Sierra Mist, its predecessor, and less “overpowering sweetness” than Sprite. The OP of the Reddit thread linked above claims to have received word that Sierra Mist will no longer be available by the conclusion of the first quarter of 2023. If true, this would essentially make Starry a replacement for Sierra Mist, sales of which have been dwindling.

However, PepsiCo does not appear to have confirmed this publicly.

Where does Starry fit into the Sierra Mist saga?

Like Starry, Sierra Mist is a lemon and lime flavor soft drink from PepsiCo. The company introduced it in 1999. By 2003, it was available in all markets in the US. Then, 13 years later, PepsiCo rebranded it as Mist Twist (stylised as Mist TWST).

In May 2016, Consumerist reported that PepsiCo was switching out the stevia that made Sierra Mist Sierra Mist, and replacing it with high fructose corn syrup.

Until then, Sierra Mist had marketed itself as a “natural” soft drink sweetened with cane sugar, Consumerist added at the time. Which it could do, since stevia technically comes from a plant. 

But consumers appear to have voted with their pockets. Two years after the rebranding, PepsiCo re-rebranded Mist Twist, and Sierra Mist was back – Starry may be the next episode in the company’s lemon-lime saga.

PepsiCo has launched other lemon-lime sodas before to compete with Sprite

Before Starry there was Sierra Mist, and before Sierra Mist there were Slice and Storm.

PepsiCo has been trying to challenge Sprite’s market dominance in the lemon-lime soda department since the early 1980s, writes Food Dive

Slice soda originally came in lemon-lime, and launched in 1984. It has since returned, but not as a direct competitor to Sprite and 7 Up. 

Then, in the late 1990s (according to Soda Finder’s FAQ), PepsiCo started test marketing Storm, another lemon-lime soda drink. It also ran with Slice Zero for a while, but ultimately, Slice and Storm made way for Sierra Mist – which, yes, may be in the process of making way for Starry.

Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When will Starry be available to buy in stores? Release date explored

PepsiCo debuted Starry at the National Association of Convenience Stores show in Las Vegas, in October 2022.

This week, Food Dive reports, influencers started receiving samples of the drink. Some have posted reviews on YouTube and other video-sharing websites. Find one here.

Food Dive also adds that cans of Starry have been cropping up at stores across the United States. Examples include Kroger and Walmart.

In other words, Starry is already available in stores. If it’s not yet available in your local store, you might just have to wait for supplies to roll in. 

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.