I was a little thrown off the first time I laid eyes on Pepsi Next. It came to my attention while I was in Saint Louis, and so my first, incredulous reaction was to turn to Kevin and ask “Did Pepsi learn nothing from the whole New Coke fiasco?”
“That was my first thought too. It’s New Coke all over again,” Kevin said.
I laughed off the idea of a new Pepsi model, but I tend to usually give in to hype when it comes to new pop flavors from old favorites. I’ve long wondered why little pleasantries like Lime Pepsi and Vanilla Coke are constantly taken off the market. Being an ex-Pepsi guy from one of the few parts of the United States which shows an unwavering loyalty and preference for Pepsi, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I gave in and bought this so-called next Pepsi. It wasn’t: It was near the end of my visit to New Orleans, when I had just visited the Amtrak station to buy my ticket home to Buffalo. It was night, and I didn’t see any reason to wait for the spotty NORTA bus to take me back to the streetcar line I needed to get back where I was staying. As I approached the west end of Lee Circle, I spotted a gas station and wondered if they were selling Pepsi Next. They were. I bought one, sat at the edge of the Saint Charles line, and popped it open.
Those who pay attention to the world of politics have seen our non-homemade diets come under attack lately for not being healthy enough. Some of the larger corporate food makers are pricking up their ears and starting to take note. Some are altering their original formulas to create their staples in a more health-friendly matter, others are offering healthy alternatives. Pepsi Next, so far, is the healthy alternative to their popular formula. They’ve avoided the master mistake of New Coke so far, which was trying to immediately replace their popular, beloved recipe with the new stuff and expect everyone to be on board. Right now both the original Pepsi and Pepsi Next are available.
Pepsi Next claims to be the original Pepsi recipe with a whopping 60 percent of the sugar cut out. Yes, we have to be aware of the fact that it’s still pop, which means it’s still little more than liquified sugar and fizz. But cutting more than half the sugar is a big step to be taken, and it does show. One of the ingredients in the Pepsi formula is citric acid, and I’m not sure what it’s in Pepsi or and cola for. One thing is for certain, though: Without the massive sugar intake, that citrus flavor is much, much more obvious.
That’s the biggest difference between Pepsi and Pepsi Next. New Coke forced a new formula onto the public that made it taste more like Pepsi. Coke’s recipe has considerably less sugar taste than Pepsi, and this is no doubt what propels Coke into one of America’s great corporate symbols: Coke goes better with a lot of other foods and recipes than Pepsi. It’s a Rum Coke, not a Rum Pepsi. I was expecting Pepsi Next’s taste to be less sugary and to therefore be more like Coke. But that really isn’t the case. There’s a major difference between letting back on the sugar taste and actually using less sugar.
Yes, pulling back on the sugar in such a strong way definitely shows in Pepsi Next. But Pepsi didn’t back of on the actual Pepsi taste, and this appears in an odd taste contradiction. It tastes like Pepsi Next wants to be a fruit-flavored pop, but without letting go of the cola it’s trying to be at the same time. Pepsi Next is a REALLY over-sugared and fizzy citrus fruit drink.
It’s a good thing Pepsi isn’t trying to replace itself with Pepsi Next. I don’t really see it catching on. It’s an under-sugared version of Pepsi’s over-sugared taste, with more citrus acid. Whether or not people adopt Pepsi Next, I think it’s safe to assume that I’m not going to be visiting bars to order Beam and Pepsi or Daniel’s and Pepsi any time soon.