The folks at Dr Pepper Snapple Group — formerly known as Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages and Dr Pepper/Seven Up and who knows how many other names — recently announced the latest Dr Pepper line extension, Dr Pepper Cherry.
Note that the name is officially Dr Pepper Cherry, not Cherry Dr Pepper. Granted, everyone in the universe will call it by that more practical name. But at least some branding guy got paid for the awkward phrase!
Technically, this would be the 5th flavor extension of the Dr Pepper brand, following up 2002's short-lived Red Fusion, 2005's Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper (later renamed/redesigned as Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla), 2006's Dr Pepper Berries & Cream, and 2007's Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr Pepper.
When you think about possible line extensions for Dr Pepper, cherry probably doesn't come to mind. I mean, the regular version of the drink already has a bit of a cherry flavor to it. Beyond that, the Dr already has a Dr Pepper flavor, of which the diet version sells rather well. Berries & Cream seemed to crash and burn. In fact, you have to go back to the first spinoff, Red Fusion, to revisit the pure cherry approach. Back then, the official press release described Red Fusion (or Red Fusion by Dr Pepper) as "sporting an alluring red color and use of a variety of fruit flavors, including the basic flavor profile of Dr Pepper." Unfortunately, this drink actually didn't taste that much different from regular Dr Pepper. The cherry/berry flavor was far too weak, and other than the red color, it was hard to differentiate the beverage. It died shortly thereafter.
Not giving up, the folks at Dr Pepper seem to be taking a different approach with this new Cherry variety. While some may ask "didn't Dr Pepper already taste like cherry", the marketing folks seem to be responding by emphasizing the "amazingly smooth" taste of the drink. Given that regular Dr Pepper has more of a bite, this contrast alone may be appealing enough for folks to give this flavor a try. And I must attest, this is a very good flavor!
Upon opening the bottle, you are greeted with the traditionally-expected Dr Pepper scent. However, this is supplemented with some fruity smells, hinting at the cherry you are about to experience. The color is cola-dark, but there's a slight reddish tint that is pretty visible if you are viewing the bottle with sunlight in the background. As advertised, the drink is Dr Pepper, but with a blended cherry flavor that really is smooth. Whereas Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper relied on the vanilla flavoring to keep the flavor creamy and less edgy, here the cherry is the star. It's still familiar Dr Pepper, but less harsh and aggressive.
The inclusion of cherry seems to make the drink sweeter, while providing quite a pleasant aftertaste, despite the use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as the sweetener. BevReview Twitter follower Will Sigmon commented that Cherry has "the sharpness of the fizzy Dr. Pepper flavor, with a cherry twist aftertaste. It's almost like a cherry Tootsie Pop flavor." The announcement press release noted that this "exciting new blend combines the great taste of Dr Pepper with the perfect amount of cherry flavor." I think they flavor scientists got this one right.
I also really like the packaging for this drink. You'll note with the introduction of Dr Pepper Berries & Cream in 2006, the entire Dr Pepper line got a much needed logo/design facelift, with the brand name sitting in an oval and the flavor hanging below in a smaller oval. This design was rolled out to the flagship flavor and also prompted a redesign of Cherry Vanilla. Well, for Dr Pepper Cherry, while they followed the general format, they broke from the mold to really showcase this flavor.
The design follows the "cherry breakout" effect first introduced with Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr Pepper. The Dr Pepper logo features a large, superimposed "Cherry" on the lower-right corner, with everything sitting above pretty obvious illustrations of cherries. The tagline "Amazingly Smooth" sits above the logo, while elsewhere on the label, you'll find the phrase "It's so amazingly smooth, you have to try it to believe it." Notably, the primary color is not red, but black, with red highlights. It's very similar in approach to Coca-Cola Cherry Zero, in fact. The black/red color scheme contrasts nicely against the rest of the Dr Pepper lineup, setting it apart enough to catch you eye.
A full ingredient list is as follows:
Dr Pepper Cherry
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup and 2% or less of: caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate (preservative), citric acid, phosphoric acid, caffeine, malic acid, sodium phosphate, Red 40
An 8 oz. serving is 110 calories, meaning that if you drink the commonly available 20 oz. bottle, you'll be pushing roughly 260 calories. At the time of this writing, it's unknown how much caffeine is in this drink.
For those of you worried about the future of Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla, I spoke with someone at Dr Pepper Snapple Group corporate affairs about the future of that flavor. The commented that "Cherry Vanilla will be sticking around." That's good news, because Cherry Vanilla is also a solid flavor.
Overall, I'm very impressed with the flavor in Dr Pepper Cherry. While at first I mocked the idea, the flavor won me over. It lives up to the claims of being smooth, while not forgetting the unique flavor heritage of Dr Pepper. I hope this is a flavor extension that stands the test of time. Hopefully, the marketplace responds appropriately.