Review: Pepsi Throwback (December 2009 Rerelease)

Good News! As of March 2011, both Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback are permanent additions to the Pepsi lineup!

After you read our review of Pepsi Throwback below, check out our Mountain Dew Throwback review

2009 will go down as the year among beverage enthusiasts as the year we finally saw mainstream reinforcement of the sugar vs. high fructose corn syrup flavor experience. With the April release of Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback, we saw a widespread distribution of a niche product that used “real” or “natural” sugar, however you believe the marketing spin (it’s a combination of cane and beet sugar, for those wondering).

Pepsi Throwback (December 2009 Rerelease Version)
Pepsi Throwback – December 2009 design

The Throwbacks were with us for an 8 week run… and then disappeared, much to our dismay. Based on all the comments posted here on BevReview, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, we weren’t alone in that thought! Even the folks at National Public Radio were interested; they interviewed us on the air!

Thus when Pepsi announced in August that we’d see another limited return of the Throwbacks starting in December, there was much rejoicing! Things got more exciting when we started to see the improved designs that both products featured, making up for the poorly-executed visual design we saw in April. With these new looks, the “new” Throwbacks should stand out in the marketplace more effectively.

That said, the rereleased Pepsi Throwback is finally here!

Let’s start by taking a look at the new label design. In Pepsi’s original announcements in August, they mentioned that we’d see the “Same formula, but cooler vintage look!” (Facebook) and “With the same formula, but new awesome vintage look!” (Twitter).

Pepsi Throwback
Pepsi Throwback – April 2009 design

Long gone is the blue label color that was used in the April release. Instead, we’ve actually gone retro, somewhat in the spirit of the prototype Pepsi Throwback design. The Pepsi logo in the December 2009 version of Throwback seems to be a callback to the 1971 vs. the 1987 version seen on the prototype bottle (note the differences in the “PEPSI” font, especially the way the “E” is crafted).

Pepsi Throwback Comparison: Prototype, April 2009, & December 2009 Designs
Pepsi Throwback Comparison: Prototype, April 2009, & December 2009 Designs

The logo and branding is now set horizontally instead of vertical and sideways, more in line with standard can design, which was more popular back then vs. the 20 oz. bottles which dominate sales today.

Careful observers will also note a change in the way sugar is described. You’ll recall the April 2009 version of Pepsi Throwback referred to the product as “made with natural sugar”, however now we have a callout to being “made with real sugar” (just likethe prototype originally noted). Of course, the use of this language seems a lot clearer vs. the question of “just what is natural sugar?” If the formula stays the same as has been previously shared, it should still be a combination of cane and beet sugar. Ironically, the use of the “real sugar” line may also prompt potential customers to ask, “so, if this is real sugar, what was the stuff in Pepsi before?” I’m sure the folks over at the Corn Refiners Association would love to answer that question.

Pepsi Throwback (December 2009 Rerelease Version)

Rounding out the new design is a nice yellow callout banner on the retro logo denoting that this product is “Throwback” and available for a “Limited Time Only”.

Moving on to the taste. I’m happy to report that the same flavor we experienced with the April 2009 release of Pepsi Throwback is back. There was no noticeable change to the taste. Because of that, I’m going to repost my notes from that original review:

Well, I’d like you to envision drinking a HFCS Pepsi. Now remove the syrupy residue that enters your mouth during the middle part of your tasting experience, as well as the aftertaste. Replace it with a full-bodied “Pepsi flavor”, not just at the end of the drink, but during the entire experience. While HFCS Pepsi starts out a bit watery, with a bit of chemical flavor, Pepsi Throwback is cleaner, producing a consistent cola taste from first sip, while it passes over your tongue, and eventually the aftertaste as it goes down your throat.

Our original Pepsi Throwback review also compared this drink against HFCS Pepsi, Kosher Pepsi, and Mexican Pepsi, so if you’d like to see how the drink stacks up to those iterations of the brand, make sure you give it a read!

Pepsi Throwback (December 2009 Rerelease Version)

For those curious, here’s the ingredient list compared to HFCS Pepsi:Let’s start by comparing the ingredients in all 4 entries:

HFCS Pepsi
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sugar, phosphoric acid, caffeine, citric acid, natural flavor

Pepsi Throwback
Carbonated water, sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, caffeine, natural flavor

In the end, we applaud Pepsi’s decision to not only bring back Throwback, but also work to improve the visual appeal of the drink. We’re just sorry to hear that it is once again a short-term beverage. (But at least it has inspired new products like Heritage Dr Pepper to come to market!)

We highly recommend the taste and flavor experience of Pepsi Throwback and encourage you to support it with your wallet during its December 28-February 22 run. Just maybe one of these days Pepsi will wake up and give us a more steady supply of this superior-tasting drink!

Other Throwback coverage on