The Pepsi(Max) Challenge.

Inspired by a BBC programme called Business Nightmares, I decided to do the “Pepsi Challenge”.

You’ll be familiar with the phrase, but the footage within the programme (still available on iplayer) was charmingly low-budget. Pepsi started the marketing campaign in 1975; members of the public are asked to try two unmarked glasses of cola, and after they express a preference a cardboard box (I told you it was high-tech) is moved, revealing the bottles from which the beverages were poured. “Which drink did you prefer?” “Pepsi!”.

My own Pepsi Challenge will be not between standard Pepsi and Coke, but between the two new players. Pepsi Max and Coke Zero. These are diet drinks branded not as ‘diet’ but as ‘no sugar’, perhaps in an attempt to make drinking a diet drink seem more masculine. Both brands have certainly learnt from the New Coke disaster covered in the Business Nightmares programme – instead of updating their diet drinks they have . To my mind Coke Zero is what Diet Coke would taste like if it had been invented in the noughties rather than the 80s. (2006 and 1982 to be precise, Pepsi Max and Diet Pepsi were launched in 1993 and 1964 respectively).

So, onto the tasting. Two cans, put into the fridge at the same time, poured into same-sized glasses by a helpful volunteer, and I poured for him, so that neither of us knew which drink we were tasting.

I believed that I knew which was which instantly, and I was right. My assistant also guessed the identity of the drinks correctly.

  • Pepsi Max
    • is sweeter
    • looks fizzier but tastes flatter
    • tastes “of America” according to my test subject
  • Coke Zero
    • is more acidic-tasting
    • “sharper” in the mouth
    • preferred by both of us (maybe not surprisingly since they had 13 more years to work on the formula)

So I know which I should be buying – although knowing me it is more likely that I will go for whichever is on special offer!

Which do you prefer? Do you know?


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