Driftwell wants to function as melatonin in a can, but will people buy it?
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Unless you’re a billionaire whose net worth has somehow increased during the pandemic, there’s a good chance that 2020 has been at least a slightly more stressful year than normal. That’ll happen at a time when going outside was deemed dangerous for months, mass unemployment eroded seemingly everyone’s job security, large swaths of the country caught fire, all while a consequential presidential election looms. Anyone who isn’t stressed out should be regarded with suspicion at a time like this.

Perhaps, then, it was inevitable that 2020 would see a large food and drink conglomerate announce a product meant to help us all chill out and get some sleep. That’s at least the premise behind Driftwell, an “enhanced water beverage” from PepsiCo that touts itself as a de-stressing and relaxing choice before bedtime.

So far set to be sold in only a Blackberry Lavender flavor, each 7.5-ounce can of Driftwell is loaded with 200 milligrams of L-theanine, as well as 10% of your recommended daily value of magnesium. That 7.5-ounce mini can size is designed to help you hydrate right before bed without waking you up in the middle of the night.

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Credit: Boy_Anupong/Getty and PepsiCo

Boy_Anupong/Getty and PepsiCo

So what is L-theanine? Apparently it’s an amino acid which can be found in green and black teas, as well as certain (presumably non-psychedelic) mushrooms. It can supposedly boost your levels of GABA, serotonin and dopamine, feel-good brain chemicals that help calm you down, while simultaneously decreasing the levels of brain chemicals linked to stress and anxiety. L-theanine is not a sedative per se, but studies suggest it can help put you in the right frame of mind to fall asleep.

Given that PepsiCo would probably run into some legal issues if they started selling drinkable CBD, this is probably about as close as they can get.

“From a scientific and regulatory perspective, we feel really good about making that claim around L-theanine,” Emily Silver, vice president of innovation and capabilities at Pepsi’s North American beverages unit, told CNBC. “Specifically, we have safety in clinical data to prove that it works.”

Between a world gone mad and the fact that “functional water beverages” were nearly a three billion-dollar category in the US in 2019, Pepsi is probably betting that Driftwell’s December 2020 online rollout (to be followed by brick and mortar sales in Q1 2021) will be greeted enthusiastically by consumers looking for something—anything—that can calm them down. Whether this is a flash in the can or the start of a more mainstream trend, expect a few PepsiCo executives to endure some sleepless nights in the interim.