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This Pizza Has a Special Ingredient: Pepsi

The beverage chain is veering far from cola with its new product.

While cola-braised ribs or chicken have been around in certain cooks' repertoires for decades, the caramel-based beverage is best thought of as something consumed alongside one's food rather than in it. 

That, however, hasn't stopped chains from experimenting with different products as part of "they did what?!" promotions. Pepsi  (PEP) - Get PepsiCo Inc. Report, in particular, has been heavy on the gimmick game with things like the ColaCream Donut and the Pepsi Maple Syrup Cola in partnership with IHOP  (IHOP) .

What's The Weirdness This Time?

This time, the longstanding beverage chain and Coca-Cola  (KO) - Get Coca-Cola Company (The) Report competitor veered even farther from its original beverage roots. The Pepsi-Roni Pizza is designed in partnership with the business side of the Culinary Institute of America and has -- wait for it -- cola-infused pepperoni.

The limited-time promotion is a nod toward Pepsi's decades-long partnership with many large pizza chains. According to the company, 72% of major national pizza companies sell Pepsi instead of Coke. The belief that pizza goes better with Pepsi is part of both fast food lore and a campaign that dates back to the 1980s.

Yum! Brands  (YUM) - Get Yum! Brands Inc. Report-owned Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, and Papa John's  (PZZA) - Get Papa John's International Inc. Report are some major pizza chains that sell exclusively PepsiCo products.

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To play that up, CIA chefs made pepperoni cooked in a Pepsi Zero Sugar reduction (instead of the usual, you know, water) to go atop the pizza.

"Pepperoni brings a smokey spiciness and the Pepsi adds a citrusy sweetness," David Kamen, Director of Client Experience for CIA Consulting, said in a statement. "It's an intriguing combination we think pizza fans will be excited to try."

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Where Can You Get This Pizza?

Like the maple syrup cola and Pepsi donut before it, this is a marketing promotion that will not be available for sale.

Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on May 20, Pepsi will be handing out free pies to those who show up at the Made in New York Pizza restaurant in West Village. Similar rollouts will be taking place in Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, and Chicago in the coming week.

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Pepsi is also encouraging those who can't make it to one of those cities to buy a slice of pizza and a can of Pepsi and share it on Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Twitter Inc. Report, Instagram, or Facebook  (MVRS) - Get Meta Report with the hashtag #BetterWithPepsi.

Doing that and testing "PEPSIANDPIZZA" to 81234  will get participants a reimbursement of $3 and $5 off DoorDash  (DASH) - Get DoorDash Inc. Class A Report pizza orders when purchased with a Pepsi.

What Is Pepsi Getting From This?

These types of weird pairing products do not have the goal of bringing in sales -- in Pepsi's case, it is not for sale at all -- but rather generating buzz around the brand and trying to go viral both on and off the internet.

"These are part of a long tradition of companies creating new, slightly outrageous, fast food and snack food combinations – more cheese, more meat, more layers, adding sauces, [or] Cheetos, for crunch and a pop of flavor," food historian Ashley Rose Young told BBC in 2019.

While most such initiatives ultimately fizzle out, occasionally it works -- while McDonald's  (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report launched the Szechuan Sauce in 1998 to promote the Disney  (DIS) - Get The Walt Disney Company Report movie "Mulan," fans bring it up to this day. When the burger chain brought it back, fans also lined up around the block to score a few packages.