PepsiCo is bringing Muscle Milk into the plant-based category as the fast-growing brand looks to attract consumers who are incorporating the trend into more facets of their everyday lives.
The snack and beverage giant said its Muscle Milk Plant Protein Shakes are the only ready-to-drink plant protein that is specifically formulated to deliver on athlete needs and active occasions. Each bottle has 30 grams of plant-based protein, all nine Essential Amino Acids found in most animal-based proteins, 3 to 4 grams of sugar, 170 to 180 calories and vitamin B12 and iron.
Marissa Pines, a senior marketing director for PepsiCo’s Gatorade portfolio, said Muscle Milk has traditionally played in the performance category while plant-based has largely been relegated to lifestyle. But in recent years, PepsiCo and other companies have observed that consumers are incorporating more plant-based products into other parts of their daily routines, including muscle building.
The challenge for offerings in the plant-based realm, Pines added, is that they previously hadn’t been able to deliver the complete protein and muscle recovery ability that users are looking for — a problem the Muscle Milk Plant Protein Shakes is aiming to solve.
“We wanted to make sure that we had something for that group, especially as we anticipate it’s going to continue to grow,” Pines said in an interview. This is “a little bit more future-proofing than solving a leaky bucket problem.”
The beverage, which will be available in Caramel Vanilla and Chocolate, will start hitting shelves in December before making its way to additional national retailers in early 2024.
Muscle Milk, which the snack and beverage giant acquired from Hormel Foods in 2019, posted double-digit growth in 2022. Pines said the brand, which is “seeing strong sales growth ... and a lot of great momentum” in 2023, is posting volume expansion that is outpacing the protein shakes and powders category.
For the 52 weeks ending Aug. 13, sales increased 19% to $425 million, data provided by Circana, a Chicago-based market research firm, showed. At the same time, unit sales jumped 8.7%, a sign that demand, and not just a price increase, contributed to the brand’s success during the prior year. Despite the growth, Muscle Milk is only responsible for a tiny slice of the $86 billion in revenue PepsiCo generated in 2022.
To extend its growth, PepsiCo continues to look for new ways for Muscle Milk to supply protein to consumers.
Pines said Muscle Milk Plant Protein Shakes will help retain those who may leave the brand in the future for plant options, while also bringing in new consumers who may have stayed away from the product because it didn't have an animal-free option in the first place.
In addition to innovating its core Muscle Milk platform, Pines said the brand will continue working with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and PepsiCo’s R&D team on future innovations with strength and performance in mind.
“As we see more and more consumers engaging with the protein category, using protein for all different reasons, we want to make sure that we're providing offerings that meet all of those needs,” Pines said.