The New Pepsi Challenge

In the late 1970's Pepsi began doing public blind taste tests where subjects would take sips of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi - and choose which one they liked better.  They found they had a slight edge in these tastings over Coke and ran the claim, "Nationwide, more people prefer the taste of Pepsi over Coca-Cola."

I remember these ads clearly.  I also remember being a big proponent of Coke at a young age, but I couldn't tell you why.  Even though Pepsi was, "The Choice of a New Generation," I felt angry that so many foolish people would incorrectly pick Pepsi when Coke was so clearly better.

In his amazing book Blink, author Malcom Gladwell actually describes some of the nuances of taste tests that the Pepsi Executives may-or-may-not-have knowingly taken advantage of.  When testers are asked to take only a sip, Pepsi, being slightly sweeter than Coke may be chosen more often even though many might think its flavor cloying over the course of a whole drink.

Anymore, the two are equal in my book; and although I don't drink sodas often, they go great with Mexican food.  When I figure out why, I'll let you know.

So, what's the New Pepsi Challenge?  Last year, Pepsi and Mountain Dew released "Throwback" versions of their sodas made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup.  Just like the good old days, you know, 1980.  They were released only for a limited time and came in old-fashion cans, which I think look pretty cool myself.

I bought a 12-pack of each the Throwback Pepsi and the regular one and conducted my own New Pepsi Challenge asking testers to see if they could choose the one made with real sugar over the one made with corn syrup.

While some people just made their guess, some added that they preferred one over the other.  Some people even said, "I think this one is corn syrup AND I think I like it better."  Although I could discern a very slight difference in flavor, I couldn't tell you beyond a guess which one was which.  I also didnt prefer one over the other.

They both tasted like sour carbonated sugar water.

And your results:  8 vs 8.  A tie. 

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Authordavid koch
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Soda.  Pop.  Coke.  Cola.  Soda-pop.  Coca-Cola.  Whatever you call it colloquially, carbonated sugar water has been part of the American diet since the mid 1800's.  Originally sold as health-foods, veritable tonics, a panacea; their benefits have been revealed to be nothing more than snake oil.  

I recently perused the soda aisle at a supermarket and was amazed at the variety of soda they stock.  Some of the more unusual ones boasted a new type of Diet soda, made with Splenda, so it's better now.  Some even touted vitamins and minerals!  Rejoice!  Finally they put vitamins in my soda!

There may have been 30 different SKU's of Coke products when you count 2-Liters, 12-packs, and mini-cans and multiply by Coke Classic, Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Coke, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, Coke with Splenda, Vanilla Coke , Coke with Lime, and Banana Bread Flavored Diet Coke Plus Ginsing, Vitamin D and Coemzyme Q10.

I was tempted to purchase a box of TaB, I was like an archeologist sumbling into an artifact that I thought was destroyed in a great fire.  I didn't know Coca-Cola still made the stuff.  TaB has an interesting story:  It was introduced to the US market in 1963 and was originally sweetened with cyclamate.  Congress banned cyclamate in 1969 and instead, saccharin was used.  

In 1977, Congress moved to ban sacchrin also, they didn't but all products that contained any had to carry the warning, "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals." Remember this?  It was also present on every diner table in a little plastic boat, on the little pink packet of Sweet-N-Low.

In a twist of sweetener fate, saccharin was banned in Canada in 1977 - so now Sweet-N-Low in Canada is made from cyclamate (banned in the US) and Sweet-N-Low in the US is made from saccharin (which is banned in Canada).

I always thought TaB was the first ever diet soda, but it was not.  According to the Wiki, the Kirsch Bottling Company launched a sugar-free Ginger Ale called No-Cal in 1952.  The Royal Crown Cola Company "RC Cola" released Diet Rite in 1958.  No-Cal fizzled out and died but was resurrected in 2005 by the INOV8 Beverage Company in 2005 with the flavors Cherry Lime, Chocolate, Clementine, and Vanilla Cream.

I enjoy a cold soda now and then over ice.  Everything in moderation, I say, even moderation.

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Authordavid koch
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