Review: Heritage Dr Pepper


In early December, we posted a rumor about a “sugar-sweetened Dr Pepper” coming to market. Thanks to BevReview readers, we were able to confirm that Heritage Dr Pepper did exist!

Heritage Dr Pepper

Heritage Dr Pepper

If you can image a Dr Pepper version of Pepsi Throwback, then you get the right idea about this drink. In fact, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the makers of Dr Pepper, are working with Pepsi to bring this product to market. It’s only being bottled in markets where Pepsi already handles Dr Pepper, most likely tapping into Pepsi’s supplies of cane & beet sugar being used for Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback. The Pepsi relationship limits distribution, unfortunately. For example, BevReview HQ is located here in Chicago, and we do not have access to Heritage Dr Pepper (because Pepsi does not handle the Windy City’s Dr Pepper bottling). Fortunately, my sister lives in Indiana and was able to send me some.

Real Sugar? Yup!

Real Sugar? Yup!

The folks at Dr Pepper Snapple Group haven’t made an official announcement about the product, but we were in touch with their Corporate Affairs department. Unfortunately, all they felt like confirming was “yes, the product exists” and “please ask Pepsi any future questions.” Well, apparently, they’re not very talkative. Go figure.

10-2-4

10-2-4

The packaging itself features a background with vertical yellow and red lines sitting behind a retro-styled “Dr Pepper” logo on an oval shape. The word “Heritage” sits above the name, anchored at 3 points by the classic “10-2-4″ numbering reflecting “Dr Pepper Time”. What’s this, you ask? Per the folks behind Dublin Dr Pepper, one of the only sources for real sugar Dr Pepper on a year-round basis…

Those well-known Dr Pepper numbers of 10, 2 and 4 weren’t selected at random. They represent the times of day when the human body needs a little “pick-me-up” to avoid an energy slump.

It was in the 1920s that Dr. Walter Eddy at Columbia University studied the body’s metabolism. He discovered that a natural drop in energy occurs about 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. But he also discovered that if the people in his research study had something to eat or drink at 10, 2 and 4, the energy slump could be avoided.

After Dr. Eddy’s research findings were released, Dr Pepper challenged its advertising agency to come up with a theme which would suggest that Dr Pepper should be that 10, 2 and 4 drink which would keep the energy level up. The result was one of the most enduring of Dr Pepper’s advertising themes: Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2 and 4.

Below the logo is a callout that mentions “Made with Real Sugar”, following the same pattern used by the current batch of Throwbacks — and unlike the April 2009 releases which referenced “Natural Sugar” instead. Assuming the same source for sugar is used in Heritage Dr Pepper, we can assume this is a combination of cane and beet sugar and is NOT Kosher.

So what’s inside? Here’s a comparison of Heritage vs. high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) Dr Pepper:

Heritage Dr Pepper
Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Caffeine

HFCS Dr Pepper
Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Caffeine

What’s interesting is that Heritage Dr Pepper actually lists the caffeine content, something that Pepsi does, but not usual protocol for the Doctor (in fact, when we’ve asked for this information, Dr Pepper Snapple Group historically has said “We don’t publicly provide this information.”) Heritage Dr Pepper comes in at 3.4 mg/oz. In comparison, sugar-sweetened Pepsi Throwback is 3.2 mg/oz. and Mountain Dew Throwback contains 4.6 mg/oz.

HFCS Dr Pepper

HFCS Dr Pepper

The colors of both Heritage and HFCS Dr Pepper are pretty much the same. When you first open a Heritage Dr Pepper, you’ll note that there isn’t much scent. This contrasts HFCS Dr Pepper, which definitely produces a cherry/cola smell. And what about the taste? Well, surprisingly, the difference wasn’t as substantial as I originally expected, especially after the obvious improvement experienced with Pepsi Throwback.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Heritage does taste better than standard HFCS Dr Pepper, but the difference is not as noticeable. It’s finer. For example, HFCS Dr Pepper is very carbonated, producing a tanginess on your tongue with a bit of a bite. In contrast, Heritage Dr Pepper is much smoother and cleaner, allowing you to actually notice those “23 Flavors” that the company is always bragging about. This sensation reminds me of the original April 2009 version of Mountain Dew Throwback. That drink was somewhat different tasting from what we were used to, but because of the way it was made, you really were able to savor the flavors beyond that which you can normally do with HFCS versions.

Heritage Dr Pepper is for those who appreciate a good Dr Pepper. Unfortunately, for this review I didn’t have a bottle of Dublin Dr Pepper handy, which has long been held as “the standard” by which Dr Pepper should taste. Maybe some of our BevReview.com readers can comment if they’ve tasted both and note how Heritage stacks up.

Yes, there's sugar in there!

Yes, there’s sugar in there!

In any case, like the Throwbacks, a product like Heritage Dr Pepper is welcomed in the marketplace. One wonders how it will accurately be measured as a success/failure given the limited distribution and general lack of awareness about the drink. It’s almost as if it was just thrown out there in a “this seems like a good idea” situation after seeing Pepsi do their thing. Granted, Pepsi totally botched the first rollout of their sugar limited editions, so maybe we should cut the fine folks at Dr Pepper some slack.

I’m a Pepper. Would you’d you like to be a Heritage Pepper too?