REVIEW: Pepsi True

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High fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. To some, they’re just ingredients on a label. To others, they’re a plague that has destroyed society. To me, they are the sweeteners that’ll haunt my liver for the rest of my life.

You will not find high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners in the new Pepsi True. Instead, you will find and taste old school and new school plant-based sweeteners — sugar and stevia. There’s also carbonated water, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavor, and caffeine.

Don’t let the green can fool you. It’s not a natural, environmentally friendly, St. Patrick’s Day celebrating, green tea containing, or 4/20 celebrating version of Pepsi. (Although I do imagine the can is bong-able.) It’s just a cola for those who stay away from high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Coca-Cola has a similar product on the market called Coca-Cola Life.

However, while Coca-Cola Life can be purchased from stores, the only way to get your hands on Pepsi True is through online retailer Amazon. And you can’t just buy a 12-ounce can, a six-pack, or a 12-can fridge pack. You have to buy a nine dollar, 24-count case made up of adorable 7.5 ounce cans. Right now I imagine some of you doing math in your head. Stop what you’re doing and let me be your abacus.

SPOILER ALERT: Buying a case of Pepsi True from Amazon is pricey.

A 12-pack of regular Pepsi/Diet Pepsi/Pepsi Next in 12-ounce cans go for around three bucks. So if 24 cans will be around six bucks, then it’ll cost two cents per ounce. Now a 24-pack of 7.5-ounce cans of Pepsi True has 180 ounces and costs nine smackers. So it ends up at five cents per ounce. So Pepsi True per ounce is more than twice as expensive as any other Pepsi in cans. Oh, but nine dollars is not Pepsi True’s true cost. There’s also the shipping cost or the other items you have to buy in order to get free shipping on Amazon. Sometimes it’s a pain to spend $35.

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As a Pepsi fan, I was excited to try Pepsi True, but after drinking through the four cans I received from Pepsi, I don’t think I’ll be filling my Amazon shopping cart with cases of it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Pepsi True. It’s smoother and cleaner than regular Pepsi and Pepsi Next, which I adore. It has 10 fewer grams of sugar than a 7.5-ounce can of regular Pepsi. I dug that slight kola nut extract vibe it has, making it taste kind of like Pepsi Natural (although there isn’t any kola nut extract in the ingredients). Also, there isn’t any bitterness that usually comes with some stevia-sweetened products.

But it’s not good enough to make me want to pay a premium for these tiny cans from Amazon, even if I do have an Amazon Prime account. If Pepsi True ends up in brick and mortar stores and comes in larger sizes with prices equal to its HFCS and artificially sweetened bretheren, then I do see myself buying it on a regular basis.

However, if you’re a soda drinker who avoids high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, I imagine you would be willing to pay extra for Pepsi True since real sugar and stevia sodas tend to be pricier, like Mexican Pepsi and Coke, which are sweetened with real sugar, and Zevia soda, which contains stevia and monk fruit. So if you’re one of those people, I think Pepsi True a good option to have in the mostly high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweetener world we live in.

DISCLOSURE: I received free Pepsi True samples from Pepsi.

(Nutrition Facts – 7.5 ounces – 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi True
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 7.5 ounces
Purchased at: Received from Pepsi
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Smoother and cleaner than regular Pepsi. Fewer grams of sugar than regular Pepsi. No HFCS or artificial sweeteners. Has a kola nut vibe to it.
Cons: Right now, only available only on Amazon by the case in small 7.5-ounce cans. You’ll have to pay a premium for it. Spending more money to get free shipping on Amazon.

REVIEW: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar

Just like blue whales, the African wild ass, and Gary Busey’s sanity, commercial soft drinks made with real sugar seem endangered. Take a look at beverages found in your local convenience store. Most likely they’re sweetened with a processed corn syrup.

A Google search can reveal a multitude of negative health effects reportedly associated with the consumption of high fructose corn syrup. But a little bad press will never curb my soda consumption. After all, I don’t give a fructose what I put inside my body.

Nevertheless, soft drinks flavored with real sugar are making a comeback. All the cool kids are drinking them now, or at least that’s what the guy who sold me ninety crates of Mexican Coke told me.

Earlier this summer, beverage behemoth PepsiCo announced it would be manufacturing Pepsi Wild Cherry with real sugar for a limited time. Upon hearing the news, I hightailed it over to the nearest Walmart. I just couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to try Pepsi Wild Cherry, one of my favorite sodas of all time, made with that precious, ecstasy-inducing white substance. (No, not that one. The other white substance.)

If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting Pepsi Wild Cherry, trust me, it doesn’t taste like cherry cough syrup mixed with soda. Lovers of purple drank, look elsewhere. (Sorry, Lil Wayne.) Pepsi Wild Cherry is a simple beverage, offering the same cola taste of regular Pepsi but with a slight cherry zing as the flavor develops on the tongue.

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar 2

But this isn’t the first time PepsiCo has released a soda sweetened with real sugar. Pepsi Throwback, introduced in 2009, contains beet sugar. Though it doesn’t taste like beets, Throwback’s flavor is noticeably different relative to standard Pepsi. Because I tend to prefer Throwback, I wondered whether I would favor Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar over the original.

It’s packaged in a pink can decked out with a retro Pepsi-Cola logo. In comparison to standard Pepsi Wild Cherry, the real sugar variant contains two grams less of sugar and ten fewer calories. The caffeine content and ingredients lists are identical — aside from the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup, of course.

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar 3

Poured into a glass, the sodas appear indistinguishable, sharing the same color, aroma, and amount of fizz. But what about taste? Is Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar preferable to its high fructose counterpart?

I tasted each soda in a variety of different manners. I tried them in both blind and not-so-blind taste tests, hoping to identify some true difference between the two beverages. I tried the sodas cold and at room temperature from freshly opened cans, and at room temperature served completely flat.

I wanted the real sugar variant to prove superior, but dagnabbit, these two sodas taste identical. At times, it tasted like one soda might be a hint more cherry-flavored or just a bit more fizzy on the tongue. But I was unable to re-recognize these qualities during a blind taste test. Maybe my cola-tasting palate hasn’t yet reached the level of sophistication needed to distinguish between the two. But I would be lying if I claimed to perceive a difference. If PepsiCo sought to create an exact duplicate of their original Pepsi Wild Cherry, they pulled it off. Both colas possess the same sweet cherry flavor, and both make me gassy beyond belief.

Unfortunately, this means there’s little reason to buy Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar unless you’re looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup. The flavors are identical — so why should I choose one over the other? I will likely continue drinking beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, even if it cuts a few years off of my life.

Meh, I review junk food on the Internet. I’ll probably die young anyway.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 150 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 30 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 40 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar
Purchased Price: $4.28
Size: 12 pack/12 oz. cans
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes identical to regular Pepsi Wild Cherry. Made with real sugar, not HFCS. Not giving a fructose.
Cons: Doesn’t taste better than regular Pepsi Wild Cherry. Gassy food reviewers.

REVIEW: Pepsi Special (Japan)

Pepsi Special (Japan)

Look at Japan’s Pepsi Special.

Having the word “special” on its label makes it soooo special.

Well, do you know who else was labeled “special”?

Me.

Oh sure, Japanese scientists did research on dextrin, which is in Pepsi Special, and learned that it prevented rats from absorbing the fat they ate and because of that the cola has been designated as a “Food for Specified Health Uses” by the Japanese government.

Well, I aced several tests in the first grade that involved reading at a higher level than all my other classmates, being able to put the square block into the square hole, and drawing trees that looked like trees, all of which designated me for a gifted and talented class.

But look at me now. I could’ve been a doctor, lawyer, pharmaceutical salesperson, or an actor who plays a doctor, lawyer or pharmaceutical salesperson, but the only real accomplishments I’ve had are barely graduating from college, not getting arrested for anything, eating an entire large Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza in one sitting, and not having watched a minute of James Cameron’s Titanic.

I don’t know if the pressure of being labeled as “special” got to me or the years of praise caused my ego to become so large that my arrogance destroyed almost every meaningful relationship I’ve had, leaving me as an empty shell of my former self, but whatever happened I’ve learned that being labeled “special” doesn’t guarantee success.

Pepsi Special should look at my paunch and unshaven face and realize that it could be me in the future. I don’t know what the beverage equivalent of being overweight, unshaven, and sitting in your underwear writing junk food reviews is, but whatever it is, Pepsi Special won’t feel special.

Besides the dextrin and the fancy stamp of approval from Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition, which looks like someone at the front of a boat yelling “I’m the king of the world,” was there anything else special about Pepsi Special?

Yes, Pepsi Special smelled like Pepsi Next and, this is probably a bit blasphemous, it tasted like Coke Zero.

I enjoyed its cola flavor. It didn’t have a strong artificial sweetener flavor like Diet Pepsi and it was nowhere close to being as syrupy sweet as regular Pepsi, but it definitely tasted more like a diet cola. The dextrin didn’t affect the cola’s viscosity in any way and it just blended in with the flavor of the cola.

As for the claims that Pepsi Special will prevent the absorption of the fat in the foods we eat, it’s hard for me to determine if it’s doing anything because I only purchased two bottles. Heck, it’s also hard for me to tell if there are any benefits because I’m not a scientist. I could’ve been one, just like I could’ve been a doctor, lawyer, pharmaceutical salesperson, or an actor who plays a doctor, lawyer or pharmaceutical salesperson, but instead I have to settle for a clean driving abstract.

Stuffing five grams of fiber into a cola that doesn’t taste like it has five grams of fiber is impressive. Although, I wouldn’t recommend drinking a lot of Pepsi Special in one day because the combination of carbonation and fiber can’t be good for both end of the digestive system.

(Nutrition Facts – 11 kcal, 0.4~2.0 grams of fat, 25~46 milligrams of sodium, 5.4 grams of fiber, 0 grams of protein.)

Other Pepsi Special reviews:
Kotaku

Item: Pepsi Special (Japan)
Purchased Price: $4.95
Size: 490 ml
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pleasant cola flavor, if you enjoy low- or zero-calorie Pepsi colas. A bottle has more than 5 grams of fiber. Making diet cola healthy. Being one the of few people on Earth who hasn’t seen Titanic.
Cons: Only available in Japan and on eBay. Hard to determine if the dextrin is doing its job. If you don’t enjoy low- or zero-calorie colas, you won’t like it. Drinking too much of it might turn you into a burp and fart machine.

REVIEW: Pepsi Salty Watermelon (Japan)

Salty Watermelon Pepsi 1

Ah, the watermelon. Citrullus lanatus. The Summer Mistress. The Red Witch. Queen of the Fireflies. The Seedy Lady. The Damsel of Rind Street.

No matter which name you grew up using, Her Watery Majesty never fails to call to mind the carefree days of summer and youth well spent. Hot dogs, Slip ‘N Slides, sandy beaches and the unattainable girl I was in love with who lived next to my grandparents. Sigh. I’m not sure any fruit is more imbued with the power of nostalgia than the humble watermelon.

So with summer drawing to a humid close, let us not forget what the summer of 2012 has brought us. You can proudly tell your future grandchildren that you were at home watching with bated breath the night Michael Phelps did all of those important swimming things that he did. You can tell them that, yes, you camped out in the midnight line for Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection.

And, while nestled cozily in your underground cavern, you can explain to them that you stayed up late to watch the U.S. land the robot on Mars that would ultimately lead to the Martian invasion that nearly eradicated the human race.

It’s been an exciting few months.

And to mark all of these historic occasions, the Japanese arm of Pepsi has released their latest limited time only summer flavor, Salty Watermelon.

I’ve only had one experience with a Japanese Pepsi product and that was with their Pepsi Pink, a strawberry and milk flavored beverage that was released late in 2011. The name Pepsi Pink was a little misleading, as the drink itself was a unique soda entity that didn’t really retain any of the original Pepsi properties.

Pepsi Salty Watermelon is more true to its moniker. Upon opening the bottle, the first thing that surprised me was its nosegrope. There seemed to be some remnant of the original namesake beverage. I could detect both Pepsi and watermelon. The watermelon scent was not overpowering, but smelled a little like the artificial watermelon flavor found in so many hard candies (Jolly Ranchers, et al). But just a little.

That’s really what I was expecting this to be. Just a very sweet, very candy watermelon soda. But it’s not at all. I could still taste Pepsi. Actually, I tasted mostly Pepsi. The watermelon flavor that is weaved in is surprisingly subtle and only really makes its mark after you swallow, and then most strongly if you open your mouth to breathe. The watermelon is almost an afterthought. And it doesn’t taste like Jolly Ranchers at all, but is a pretty good approximation of actual watermelon.

The soda is also not very sweet. I don’t think I’d call it salty, but the sweetness has been scaled back considerably. It’s also very finely carbonated and has a fairly dry finish. Overall, it definitely drinks like a beverage for adults. A lot of forethought and restraint went into this drink. A sugary candy explosion it is not.

Salty Watermelon Pepsi 2

I like the bottle design. Can’t go wrong with a watermelon and a beach. And I am a fan of the slender bottles used in Japan. The color of Pepsi Salty Watermelon leaves a little to be desired though. It’s not quite watermelon red. Just sort of pinkish, I guess. But who cares? Close enough.

Salty Watermelon Pepsi 3

This is an interesting beverage. It’s not at all what I was expecting. Pepsi Japan continues to offer the world an interesting array of seasonal flavors while we in the U.S. continue to chug the same old same old. Sigh.

Pick up a bottle of Pepsi Salty Watermelon if you can. It’s good. And hurry up, the stupid fall is right around the corner.

(Thanks to wonderful Impulsive Buy reader Michele for sending us bottles of Pepsi Salty Watermelon from Japan.)

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 42 kcal, 0 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 19 milligrams of sodium, 10.5 grams of carbohydrates.)

Item: Pepsi Salty Watermelon (Japan)
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 490 mL
Purchased at: Somewhere in Japan 
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Watermelonic accuracy. Restraint. Yellow plastic and garden hoses. Making up nicknames for fruit.
Cons: You’ll probably never get to try it. Martian invasions. Lost loves named Lindsey.

REVIEW: Pepsi Black (Japan)

Pepsi Black

Like a vampire completely sucks the blood out of its victim, the Instagram Inkwell filter removes color from a photo, and Toddlers & Tiaras completely destroys my belief in humanity, Pepsi Black from Japan made my mouth feel like it was being completely robbed of its ability to taste.

Pepsi Black had a pleasant lemon aroma, and for a brief moment it tasted like a Diet Pepsi mixed with lemon cleaner. While its initial flavor sounds a little bad, what quickly followed was much worse.

I could describe Pepsi Black’s flavor as almost nothingness, but I could also say it’s as if Pepsi Japan figured out a way to bottle sadness and give it a flavor.

Thankfully, Pepsi Black’s bleak flavor disappeared soon after the liquid passed my oral cavity, but my taste buds experiencing sadness is a feeling they won’t soon forget.

So what makes the limited edition Pepsi Black taste more like Pepsi Bleck?

My guess is the fact that it’s a significantly reduced sugar cola. According to the bottle, it has 50 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi.

Using the power of mathematics, I calculated a 490 ml bottle of regular Pepsi in Japan has around 54-56 grams of sugar. So this Pepsi Black should have around 27-28 grams of sugar.

Because I can’t read Japanese, which makes my ancestors weep, I’m not sure if Pepsi Japan replaced the sugar with artificial sweeteners, but it doesn’t taste like they did. Since Pepsi Black tastes like depression, I wonder if they used artificial saddeners by mistake?

Pepsi Black is quite possibly the second worst soda that has ever passed through my parted lips, with Jones Bacon Soda being the worst. It’s not refreshing or tasty. Instead, it’s liquid depression.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 24 kcal, 0 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 8 milligrams of sodium, 5.8 grams of carbohydrates, 5.6 grams of sugar.)

Item: Pepsi Black (Japan)
Purchased Price: Received as gift
Size: 490 ml
Purchased at: 7-Eleven Japan
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: 50 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi. Limited edition. Pleasant lemon aroma.
Cons: It’s taste more like Pepsi Bleck. Chemically lemon flavor, which was replaced by depressing nothingness. Not refreshing. Liquid depression. Not being able to read Japanese. Toddlers & Tiaras.