PepsiCo is launching a sparkling version of Tropicana juice drink backed by a £5m push in a bid to bring a healthier edge to the carbonates sector.

Tropicana Spirit, which is rolling out now across the trade, is a blend of 70% juice and 30% sparkling mineral water. It comes in orange & mango, blueberry & blackberry and a lemon & grapefruit version. Each 400ml bottle (£1.29) provides one of the recommended 5-a-day fruit and veg portions.

PepsiCo is positioning the newcomer, which is predominantly targeted at the impulse sector, as a "more natural and healthier" alternative to a traditional carbonated soft drink. It will be going head to head with the likes of Orangina.

The product was produced on a "state-of-the-art aseptic production line" in a technically sterile environment that, unlike with other ambient products, ensured no addition of preservatives was needed to give it a longer shelf life, the company said.

Sales of carbonated soft drinks grew below inflation last year, up just 0.4% as it struggled to fight off competition from better-for-you soft drinks [Nielsen 52 w/e

6 October 2007].

"Tropicana Spirit delivers taste and refreshment through the blending of a high level of juice and lightly sparkling water in contrast with alternatives, which have a low fruit juice level with taste delivered through addition of refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and flavours," said Mary Barnard, MD of Tropicana.

Similar drinks on the market typically only contain between 1% and 20% of fruit juice levels, she added.

In the past year, Tropicana sales have risen 12.5% to £211.9m [Nielsen], but it is facing increasing competition from rival Coca-Cola, which has pledged to do more to push Minute Maid, its declining juice brand, in the UK.

Tropicana's £5m spend includes press and outdoor advertising, sampling and promotions. The most recent innovation in a major year for the PepsiCo brand was Tropicana Smoothies, which hit shelves last month backed by a £9m investment.