July 13 (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc plans to test a new malt-flavored version of its Mountain Dew soda this summer in select U.S. cities, the company said on Friday, as it aims to stand out in a competitive soft-drink market.
Starting in late August, PepsiCo will sell "Mountain Dew Johnson City Gold" at Kroger Co and 7-Eleven stores in some cities in the Midwest as well as in Denver, Colorado, and Charlotte, North Carolina, said PepsiCo spokeswoman Andrea Foote.
She said the drink will have a malt flavor with a kick of lemon-lime. It is named for Johnson City, Tennessee, the birthplace of the original Mountain Dew citrus-flavored soda.
The planned test was first reported by industry newsletter Beverage Digest, whose editor, John Sicher, said the product could be successful since Mountain Dew is already a powerful brand.
"In the declining soft drink business, a new product with a real point of difference might have potential for growth," Sicher told Reuters in an email. "Only time will tell."
PepsiCo's Foote said the new product was more about giving loyal Mountain Dew drinkers something unique rather than any large, corporate move into "craft sodas."
Craft, or small-batch, beers have been very popular in the United States over the last several years, taking market share from larger domestic brews. Craft distilling has also become popular, with smaller vodka, whiskey and gin brands gaining traction.
Craft drinks appeal to manufacturers in part because they usually command higher prices.
Indeed the Mountain Dew Johnson City Gold should sell for about $1.49 for a 16-ounce can, Foote said, whereas regular sodas sell for about 99 cents for the same sized package.
Malt-flavored drinks are popular in parts of Latin America and the Middle East, Foote said, but are still relatively small in the United States.
PepsiCo shares were up 0.7 percent at $70.36 on the New York Stock Exchange in early afternoon.