Do you remember the original mandarin orange-flavored Orange Slice? How about the clear-but-flavorful Sprite Remix? Combine both concepts and you have Sierra Mist Undercover Orange, a limited edition flavor from PepsiCo tied into the theatrical movie release of Get Smart.
This flavor was first rumored last year when Pepsi moved to protect the trademarks on the name (both regular and diet) back in December 2007. This was followed by a promotional e-mail sighting in March 2008 related to the "Pepsi Stuff" loyalty program.
The drink is clear. Yup, no color. How about that? No, it's not Crystal Pepsi, but hey, it's clear with a different type of flavor. That has to count for something, right? The labeling on the 20 oz. bottle I had is prominently orange, highlighted with lime green stripes at the top and bottom. The Sierra Mist "Undercover" logo (first spotted in the trademark filing) is mostly blue. The "Undercover" name is called out in uppercase yellow letters, almost as if this phrase was being marketed as some sort of subbrand. This idea is emphasized by the fact that the flavor ("Orange") is written in a substantially smaller size below "Undercover". A very tiny label of "Limited Edition" is also part of the logo, which is an odd choice, given that these sort of callouts are typically in more prominent locations on a label (such as on the banding).
The flavor itself is described as "lemon-lime soda with a splash of mandarin orange flavor with other natural flavors." Upon opening the drink, it does smell like an orange soda. Close your eyes when you do it or you will be deceived. Even then, the orange is not as strong as what you might find in a Sunkist or Crush orange beverage. But what about the flavor itself? It's pretty good, when you consider the fact that it's based on what I consider a inferior lemon lime drink. The orange flavor is subtle, a little sweet. The difference is the tail of the beverage experience and the aftertaste… both are somewhat different. I think this a combination of two things… the flavor of "mandarin orange" vs. standard orange and the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as the sweetener.
The orange flavor in the finish threw me off a bit. It wasn't what I expected. It's different. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. It did seem to hint back to the flavor I seem to remember from the Orange Slice days. It's more unique. At the same time, there was somewhat of a negative taste there, which either was the type of orange flavoring used or the syrupy HFCS aftertaste. In either case, I sort of liked it. However, I wanted to like it and will admit that I wish it tasted a bit better.
Like other Sierra Mist flavors, this drink contains no caffeine. A 20 oz. bottle (technically, 2.5 servings) packs 240 calories, 55 mg of sodium, and 65 g of sugars. The full ingredient list is as follows:
Sierra Mist Undercover Orange
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavor, potassium benzoate (preserves freshness), potassium citrate, and calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor).
This isn't the first limited edition flavor that Sierra Mist has rolled out. Last summer they offered Sierra Mist Lemon Squeeze, and for Holiday 2006 and 2007 they offered up Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash.
This drink also represents another blatant marketing tie-in for PepsiCo. You may recall the August 2007 rollout of Mountain Dew Game Fuel, which was an obvious cross-promotional effort with the Halo 3 game for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console. In this case, Sierra Mist Undercover Orange is tied to Warner Bros.'s summer release of Get Smart, a remake of the 1960s spy parody show. This interpretation stars Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, both of whom are featured on the Undercover Orange label. The name ("Undercover") also hints at the spy genre, as does the idea of something being hidden or top secret — such as the orange flavor disguised as a clear liquid.
The drink concept isn't completely unique. It's really just PepsiCo's version of Coke's Sprite Remix brand that featured Sprite Remix Tropical, Sprite Remix Berryclear, and Sprite Remix Aruba Jam a few years back. Still, it's nice to see an orange flavor return to Pepsi's lineup. That's something that has been missed since the loss of Slice and hasn't been adequately replaced by drinks like Tropicana Twister Soda Orange.
Overall, Sierra Mist Undercover Orange is a creative limited edition that provides an orange flavor within a clear soft drink, much like Sprite Remix. The mandarin orange taste is considerably different from other orange sodas, though suffers from some of the negatives associated with HFCS and Sierra Mist in general. It's a clever tie-in to the movie Get Smart and provides a much needed orange flavor to PepsiCo's lineup.