Back in October, reports started coming out proclaiming a new flavor extension for Dr Pepper. What was interesting about these rumors is that they were for a diet-only flavor: Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr Pepper.
The diet-only decision wasn’t unprecedented for a new flavor. PepsiCo has done the same thing with their Jazz lineup of tastes (Diet Pepsi Jazz Black Cherry French Vanilla, Diet Pepsi Jazz Strawberries & Cream, Diet Pepsi Jazz Caramel Cream) as has Coke with some Diet Coke variations (Diet Coke with Lemon). Even Cadbury Schweppes has offered different diet flavors of 7Up that you can’t find with the flagship (7Up Plus: Mixed Berry, 7Up Plus: Island Fruit).
Diet Dr Pepper actually saw an increase in market share last year, moving up in sales 6.4%, good enough to be the #10 best selling brand (replacing a tie between Sierra Mist and Diet Mountain Dew). In contrast, the flagship non-diet Dr Pepper sits at #6 overall (Source: Beverage-Digest.com). Diet Dr Pepper also has a rather positive reputation as being a drink that pretty closely resembles its inspiration, so it makes sense that Cadbury Schweppes would invest in boosting this brand a little with a limited edition flavor.
The packaging itself is very attractive. It integrates the newer Dr Pepper shield, but clearly shows that this is not the same drink as Cherry Vanilla or Berries & Cream. The white background is associated with diet versions of Dr Pepper, so that was consistent. The use of reds and browns to demonstrate the cherry and chocolate flavors was inspired. It’s hard to make brown seem “hip” (unless you are UPS), but this design pulled it off nicely. The use of silvery explosion-style graphics all helped here.
Additionally, the graphics illustrating chocolate-dipped cherries pretty much sums up what you are about to experience. One note, however, is that the labeling did not denote this beverage as part of the “Soda Fountain Classics” line, as initial versions of Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper and Dr Pepper Berries & Cream did upon rollout. As this is a limited edition, it’s only available in 2 liter and 20 oz. bottles, as well as 12 packs of cans. And despite Cadbury Schweppes’ claims to the contrary, Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr Pepper is the 4th flavor extension to the brand, not the 3rd.
The color of the beverage is pretty much cola, but with a very noticeable red tint. This also hints at the cherry influence found in the drink. When you open the bottle, the bouquet readily produces a very accurate reproduction of chocolate-covered cherries. It’s uncanny. The scent is pretty dead-on! It’s not everyday you are enticed to drink a chocolate soda (unless you are a fan of Canfield’s Diet Chocolate Fudge Soda), but the smell of Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr Pepper really draws you in.
In order to get a broader sense of opinions, we shared a 2 liter bottle of this drink at our Thanksgiving gathering with family. The overall reaction to the flavor was very positive. Comments like “this is diet?” and “wow, that really does taste like chocolate and cherries” were pretty common. Personally, I liked the flavor quite a bit. Yes, it’s diet, so obviously there are those negative connotations. Interestingly, this drink is sweetened with a combination of both aspartame and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), which is pretty uncommon for Diet Dr Pepper. Most of the drinks in that lineup just use aspartame, except for Diet Dr Pepper Berries & Cream. I think the mix of sweeteners here works very well.
The flavor was good overall. Cherry is very prevalent, but it’s balanced rather well against the chocolate taste. Another comment that was made at Thanksgiving was “there’s quite a bit going on there” in regards to all the flavors. That’s very true; it’s a complicated mix. Lots of cherry, lots of chocolate, just a tad bit of Dr Pepper influence. But overall, it works quite nicely. I think they have a winner here. (I’m not sure how well it would do in the marketplace as a non-diet entry, though I would welcome such a flavor.)
Overall, I recommend Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr Pepper if you are looking for something new in your diet drink lineup… or even if you are a mainstream beverage drinker curious about this flavor combination. It has a Coke Zero-like quality about it, in that the artificial sweeteners are pretty tolerable. That’s probably the audience it’s going after given Zero’s spinoff flavors into both Cherry and Vanilla.
As for the “Limited Edition” timeframe, I’m going to guess this flavor will be available throughout the 2007 holiday season. Of interest, however, was the $1 off coupon that came on my 2-liter bottle. It’s good for a 12-pack of Diet Dr Pepper, Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, or Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr Pepper… and expires April 30, 2008. I find that curious. One wonders if the flavor is slated to last a little longer than just the holidays (about 6 months). The coupon also omitted the Diet Berries & Cream flavor for some reason. Hmmm. Might Cherry Chocolate replace that flavor in the long run if it proves to be successful?
Give it a try… and soon! It’s only going to be around for a little while… whatever that means!