Nothing beats an ice-cold Coke on a hot summer’s day. Well - apart from a Pepsi.
A blind taste test by a panel of 11 Consumer NZ staffers has revealed they preferred Pepsi over Coke - despite almost all participants stating Coca-Cola was their usual brand of choice.
The panel blind taste-tested nine brands of cola available in New Zealand with Pepsi winning as the all-round favourite cola.
“Pepsi was the best-tasting cola according to our panel, who described it as the real deal, noting its familiarity and malty flavour,” said Ruairi O’Shea, investigative writer at Consumer.
Before the taste test, participants were asked about their favourite cola drink. Nine out of 11 participants said they preferred Coca-Cola or a variation like Diet Coke or Cherry Coke.
Pepsi, Royal Crown Draft and Coke take the top three spots with Pepsi mistaken for Coke by blind test tasters from Consumer NZ.
Only two people said that Pepsi was their preferred choice.
“Four panellists even mistook Pepsi for Coca-Cola, with fizzy drink fans saying, ‘It tastes how cola should’,” said O’Shea.
The results of the Consumer NZ taste test should not come as too much of a surprise to fans of the fizzy drinks.
The taste test was similar to the famous Pepsi Challenge from the 1970s where Pepsi went into American malls and gave people a blind sample of each cola.
The sweeter taste of Pepsi won over the majority of people in the Pepsi Challenge. Other published blind taste tests revealed people like a sip of Pepsi but prefer a glass of Coke with a meal.
Just like the Pepsi Challenge the Consumer NZ taste test found the sweet taste key.
“Pepsi took the top spot, due to its sweet taste, and mysteriously, its likeness to Coca-Cola,” O’Shea said.
“The same participants whose preferred brand was Coca-Cola described Pepsi as ‘Coca-Cola-esque’. Someone also confidently noted ‘you can’t beat a classic’.”
Also beating Coca-Cola was runner-up Royal Crown Draft, enjoyed for its sophisticated flavour with “hints of coffee” and a “lovely sweetness.
“While other colas were criticised for not living up to their expectations of cola, Royal Crown Draft was praised for its distinctness.
“If you’re looking for a rich, unique cola – Royal Crown Draft could be for you,” O’Shea said.
Coca-Cola came in at third place, with participants appreciating its sugary flavour and freshness.
After the test participants were asked which brand of cola they would buy for their home with Pepsi, Royal Draft and Coke all scoring equal points.
The marketing of Coke products such as this ad campaign with Kate Moss for Diet Coke hit consumers hard. Photo / Diet Coke
“Yet again, our results show how effective branding can be in determining your preference for a particular product.”
The best value cola
Countdown Cola was not only the cheapest cola in Consumer’s taste test by far, but it landed fourth place, making it the best value cola tested.
“Compared to the next two cheapest colas the panel tested – Pepsi and Foxton Fizz – Countdown Cola was still three times cheaper.
“Countdown Cola was described as having a ‘great all-round taste and sweetness’. One tester even specifically noted there wasn’t much of a taste difference between Countdown Cola and sample B (Coca-Cola).
“Countdown’s home-brand clearly offers great value for money.”
Marketing that falls flat
Charlies Honest Cola boasts its “honest” ingredients, and Karma Cola is described as an organic cola drink that “does good”. When it came to taste, however, these brands scored sixth and seventh place, respectively.
“On average, the colas in our tasting contain 9.9 grams of sugar per 100ml. Charlie’s Honest Cola has 8.5 grams of sugar per 100ml, while Karma Cola has 9.6 grams per 100ml.
Beware the sugar-crash
After a tasting session of nine sugar-filled drinks the testing staff were “noticeably energized” only to experience a sugar-crash hours later.
“Our advice is to be mindful of marketing slogans like ‘honest’ or ‘organic’ – these drinks still have a very high sugar content,” O’Shea said.
“Fizzy drinks should be an occasional treat, and always consumed in moderation.”
Kirsty Wynn is an Auckland-based journalist with more than 20 years experience in New Zealand newsrooms. She has covered everything from crime and social issues to the property market and has a current focus on consumer affairs.
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