Review: Pepsi Max Cease Fire with Doritos 1st Degree Burn Blazin’ Jalapeno, Doritos 2nd Degree Burn Fiery Buffalo, and Doritos 3rd Degree Burn Scorchin’ Habanero

What’s this? Is Pepsi expanding their Pepsi Max line? Are they finally stepping up to the plate against Coke Zero and its spinoff flavors Cherry and Vanilla?

Well, not quite.

Pepsi Max Cease Fire

The company has rolled out Pepsi Max Cease Fire as a limited time beverage, something that Pepsi loves to do for some reason — can I get an “Amen” from all the Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback fans?

Pepsi Max Cease Fire

Officially, the zero calorie cola “with a hint of lime flavor” will be available for 8 weeks, starting February 22. For those of you without calendars, that puts the production run ending around April 19. The drink will be available in both 20 oz and 2-litter plastic bottles.

Pepsi Max Cease Fire

Now, I do give the folks at PepsiCo credit for cross-promotion, however. It seems Pepsi’s Cease Fire is designed to “complement a new line of Doritos – Doritos Burn, which will be available for a limited time” — which just happened to be made by sister company Frito Lay. So you have a really hot and spicy chip, thus you need to wash it down with a beverage. Gotta love corporate synergy!

Doritos Burn Collection

Incidentally, the Burn series includes these 3 flavors:

  • Doritos 1st Degree Burn Blazin’ Jalapeno
  • Doritos 2nd Degree Burn Fiery Buffalo
  • Doritos 3rd Degree Burn Scorchin’ Habanero

The bottle of Pepsi Max Cease Fire features a black label with the red/white/black logo introduced with the 2008 Pepsi logo redesign. The color scheme is accentuated by green highlights to visualize the addition of lime to the flavor, including a green cap. A small half-lime icon can be found below the product name, as well as a ‘fire’ graphic with the phrase “Cool the Burn” that ties into the Doritos Fire cross-promotion. The previous “0 cal/car/sug” callout that was found towards the bottom on regular Pepsi Max as been shifted towards the top, simply highlighting “0 calorie cola” in a more visible location.

Pepsi Max Cease Fire

A large part of label real estate is also devoted to the “Cool the Burn” callout for the Pepsi Max Cease Fire/Doritos Burn marketing plan. Next to a Doritos logo, the text reads:

Cool the Burn

New Doritos Burn Flavors and Pepsi Max Cease Fire are the perfect combination of tempting heat and calming cool. With the fireproof formula of Pepsi Max Cease Fire, you’ll keep on coming back for more. So prepare your mouth for the pleasure of two highly reactive flavors.”

Upon opening a bottle of Cease Fire, you’ll note that there is a slight hint of citrus smell on top of the generally-expected Pepsi scent. The color is the same as traditional Pepsi Max.

Pepsi Max Cease Fire

When I finally took a sip of this beverage, frankly, I was disappointed. With all the hype about a “hint of lime flavor,” I expected that in the taste. But to be honest, there was little to no lime actually detectable, with any trace of it only being in the front part of the sip, completely disappearing in the middle and aftertaste portions of the tasting. The lime could have been so much stronger, more on par with the flavoring found in Diet Pepsi with Lime or Diet Coke with Lime.

Also keep in mind that this is a diet beverage, sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium (Ace K), so you will have an “fake” aftertaste to deal with. In some ways, I may actually think that Pepsi Max Cease Fire may have a more negative aftertaste than the flagship Pepsi Max itself.


Pepsi Max Cease Fire
Carbonated water, caramel color, natural flavor, phosphoric acid, aspartame, caffeine, potassium sorbate (preserves freshness), acesulfame potassium, citric acid, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), panax ginseng root extract

Cease Fire contains 5.875 mg/oz of caffeine, slightly more than Pepsi Max. In contrast, traditional Pespi contains 3.2 mg/oz., while Mountain Dew Throwback contains 4.6 mg/oz. Ginseng has also been added as a stimulant. A 20 oz. bottle contains 0 calories, 0 g of sugars, and 62.5 mg sodium.

Given that Cease Fire is being marketed as the liquid compliment to the Doritos Burn franchise, we picked up all 3 flavors of the chip lineup and tasted them alongside the drink. Granted, we aren’t a snack food resource here at BevReview, but we are more than glad to offer some comments about these chips.

Doritos 1st Degree Burn Blazin' Jalapeno

First off is Doritos 1st Degree Burn: Blazin’ Jalapeno, packaged in a yellow bag. I love the naming convention on these chips, following the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burn labeling. Clever! These chips match the bag color somewhat, being more yellow/gold in visual look. They definitely smell like jalapeno is involved. As for taste, they start out pretty mild but then kick in with the hotness on the backend. As more chips are eaten, the heat just builds.

Doritos 2nd Degree Burn Fiery Buffalo

Next up was orange-packaged Doritos 2nd Degree Burn: Fiery Buffalo. The chips themselves looked a lot like standard Doritos, maybe with a few hints of redder color thrown in. And yes, they did smell like buffalo wings, which was tempting. Personally, I liked the flavor quite a bit, even if they didn’t taste exactly like the sauce associated with wings. The average taster may find them slightly hotter than the 1st Degree Burn flavor, but I felt they were on par with the heat. I expected a great increase in flavor temperature, but this seemed like a milder increase. Not a problem, however.

Doritos 3rd Degree Burn Scorchin' Habanero

Finally we have Doritos 3rd Degree Burn: Scorchin’ Habanero, which comes in a red bag. The red continues when you look at the flavor of the chips, hinting visually that these are hot. It almost looks like the type of coloring you see added to Cheetos Flamin’ Hot snacks and the flavor tends to be on par with that as well. Are the chips hot? Yes… on a time delay. When you first sample them, they don’t seem too hot. But then things get warm a few seconds later. They weren’t intolerable, but they definitely warmer than the 1st and 2nd Degree Doritos Burn options. I’m not sure much flavor actually comes through in that hotness; personally, I probably would select the 1st Degree option if I actually wanted to enjoy taste.

Doritos Burn - Cool the Burn Pepsi Max Cease Fire

But how did Pepsi Max Cease Fire compliment these 3 types of chips? Well, after tasting a few chips of each flavor, we drank Cease Fire to see what happened. The result was pretty much the same in every situation, no matter the “hotness.” Yes, your mouth is soothed somewhat, but the burn comes back. Of course, let’s be honest here… a soda is not a neutralizer when it comes to spicy, hot foods… for that you are going to need a base like milk (which is exactly what my wife did after the testing was over).

While I like the idea behind the combination of Pepsi Max Cease Fire and the Doritos Burn line of chips, execution seems to be primarily on the marketing side rather than actual taste experience. Cease Fire is barely an improvement to the Pepsi Max line, despite the hype associated with the lime. Doritos fans should be happy with another 3 flavors to add to the zillion already available. As far as the “compliment” angle, that’s questionable. It’s a gimmick.