I don't know the science behind it, but it seems whenever a diet soda specifies the number of calories it has in its name, it tastes better.
Pepsi One tasted better than Diet Pepsi. Coke Zero tastes better than Diet Coke. Dr. Pepper Ten tastes better than Diet Dr. Pepper.
Unfortunately, Dr. Pepper 10 has one of the worst ad campaigns in recent memory. Their "It's not for women" seems to arbitrarily focus on men, for no apparent reason. Marketing like this can be taken anywhere from a silly throwback to boys versus girls of childhood to flat out misogyny. I'd find it more offensive if it weren't so absolutely stupid.
I assume this has something to do with attempting to shake the stigma that men are too ashamed to drink diet sodas - something that probably hasn't been true for decades (if it ever was). Even if they wanted to pursue this line of thinking, they didn't need to follow the questionable advertising path laid out by Axe.
Since obviously the target market for a campaign like this is stupid people, there are myriad ways of getting their attention that don't involve a bad campaign like this. "Hey you know when you're at the bar with your bros slamming Jager Bombs and Flaming Dr. Peppers? Look on the label right above this! It says Dr. Pepper! Buy this!" would be more effective.
Hopefully, Dr. Pepper doesn't continue down this slippery slope of advertising. We don't need to have the introduction of Dr. Pepper 5, with its catchy "It's for the gays!" slogan. Seriously, though, Dr. Pepper - this is a really stupid ad campaign. You've always been one of the coolest sodas - you're too good for this.
Dr. Pepper seems to be throwing its budget in only two directions: attracting the Bro demographic, and fans of The League. Which is worrisome, since I like The League. Although I can never tell if I find their clumsy product placement funny or just sad.
All this would be a moot point if Dr. Pepper 10 wasn't so good. It is a significant improvement over Diet Dr. Pepper. I can't be bothered with the specifics, but basically the concept is just using a little sugar / high fructose corn syrup is all you need to cover up that "diet" taste. This is a much better calorie balance than things like Pepsi Next, which involve a much more significant calorie commitment.
For the longest time, I assumed Dr. Pepper was made by Coca-Cola. This long-standing theory is solely due to the fact that they were usually on sale at the same time. At almost every supermarket I've ever been to, it's the same schedule: Pepsi on sale one week, Coke on sale the next - repeat. Dr. Pepper was on sale with Coke, so I figured they were all part of the same team.
But apparently, Dr. Pepper is part of the Cadburry Schweppes family, and is just distributed by Coca Cola sometimes. Or something like that, anyway. Point being, Dr. Pepper being part of its own family is the reason for the seemingly random assortment of new Ten sodas.
The new lineup of Tens consists of 7-Up, Sunkist, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and A&W. I have also read that RC Cola will be part of this, but I have yet to see this in stores.
I question some of the logic of this roll out, mostly because these sodas seem too small to need a second diet option. Dr. Pepper itself is pretty big, so I get that. But are there enough people drinking Diet Sunkist who need an alternative?
Those decisions, for some reason, were left up to people who study the market intensely and get paid to decide these things, not me. So they went with, "Yes."
Speaking of Sunkist, let's start with that.
Based on all five of the labels, it seems that the theme of the Ten line is "grey". All of the labels are either entirely grey, or have it heavily integrated into the design. I don't know if there's a deeper "this is the shade of grey between diet and sugared soda" thing going on. If that wasn't intended, then I am taking credit for it!
Even though a "grey" theme sounds at best boring and at worst depressing, it actually works quite well. Maybe we can call it "silver", instead. That sounds less sad.
Sunkist Ten's flavor is a nice improvement. It has a good "orange Popsicle" flavor to it. And the hint of high fructose corn syrup (yum!) is just enough to hide almost all of the diet aftertaste.
The flavor is really good, the one downfall is that the soda has an odd consistency. There is definitely carbonation, but there's also this thick, syrupy wave that comes along with it. Somehow it feels like it is half carbonated soda and half syrup, just not mixed together. It has a strange feeling on the roof of your mouth.
I finished the soda before it got flat, but I have a feeling this could get really peculiar to drink once it loses what carbonation it starts with.
Strange consistency aside, the flavor is there. I don't think it's as big a flavor improvement as Dr. Pepper 10 is over Diet Dr. Pepper, but it could carve out its own place.
Before moving off the subject of fruit sodas - can a major soda company please put a diet grape soda into wide distribution? Thanks.
Like when I reviewed Pepsi Next, I'm not going to repeatedly question whether or not there is a sustainable audience for the soda, I'm just going to discuss the taste. Otherwise, I'd really question whether a ginger ale needs another format. But no - I will not ask that!
I go into any ginger ale with a strong prejudice. This is because, 95% of the time, the only reason I drink it is if I have a stomach virus. So on the odd, non-sick occasion where I do have it, it reminds me of having a stomach virus. That's not exactly one of those "remember all the great times you had with our product" moments that companies strive for.
It could be because I don't drink it too often, but I don't remember ginger ale having such a bite. It could be due to the "real ginger" Canada Dry says they use. Of course, "ginger" isn't specified in the ingredients - it falls under "natural flavors".
I've never understood how "natural flavors" is allowed to suffice in the ingredients list. It seems like the next step is just to specify soda's ingredients as, "Carbonated Water, other stuff, miscellaneous, and so on." Or, for even less nutritious foods, simply have the ingredients list broken out as - ;)
At this point, I will assume Canada Dry's bite is due to ginger. It gives it almost a tonic water flavor - where it's sweet, but has something different to offset the sweetness. Honestly, the ginger bite put me off at first; it tasted odd to me. But after a few sips, I really grew to appreciate it.
I don't think I have actually had regular 7-Up since I was about seven years old. I've had the diet variety since then, although not too often. Lemon-lime sodas are never very interesting to me. However, I will forever be a fan of 7-Up, for them sending me a Diet 7-Up Taste Test Kit a while back. That is still one of the coolest things I've ever gotten in the mail. I don't know if that is sad or not.
Due to the inherent boringness of lemon-lime sodas, I was very surprised to find out that I really liked 7-Up Ten. It doesn't break any new ground in the world of limon-ness, but it does its job well. Out of all four of the new Tens, this may have hid the diet taste the best.
The final member of the class of Ten is A&W. A&W has always been my favorite of the major root beers. Barq's can piss off with its "bite". And Mug is pointless.
A&W Ten upholds the good name of A&W. It seems to have less of that weird syrup and carbonation not getting along texture. The taste itself is fantastic. I am atrocious at describing tastes, because usually my thought process is, "... it's good." But this is one of those rare instances where I can notice a pretty significant flavor profile.
A&W Ten has all the root beer hit up front, but right after swallowing you get a good wave of vanilla on the back of your tongue. A&W insists this is "Aged Vanilla", but I can't say for sure. And any jokes that could be made about that veer into a creepy direction really fast, so I will just move right along.
Some minor missteps with the texture aside, the new Ten line is a solid addition to the world of sodas. Will they all be successful? Probably not. But they are definitely good, so I think at least a couple of these varieties will find a loyal audience.
Then again, I was a loyal fan of Pepsi One, and they took that away from me, so what do I know?
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