Remember the "Cherry Wars" way back when? You know, when Cherry Coke came out in 1985 and everyone else had to have a cherry product? Pepsi eventually rolled out what they termed Wild Cherry Pepsi in 1988. Dr Pepper toyed in that space with Red Fusion, Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, and oddly Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr Pepper, until they finally got it right with Dr Pepper Cherry. There was even Cherry RC and Cherry 7Up. And who could forget Coca-Cola Black Cherry Vanilla and the beverage-with-too-long-of-a-name, Diet Pepsi Jazz Black Cherry French Vanilla. Coke's wonder product Zero has a cherry spinoff… Coca-Cola Cherry Zero. And just this year, Cherry Crush has impressed.
So it's not a surprise to see yet another cherry derivative from Pepsi, even if the name is rather unoriginal: Cherry Vanilla Pepsi.
This limited time offering is the first Pepsi cherry flavor to utilize the 2008 Pepsi logo redesign, although Wild Cherry Pepsi is getting a makeover at the same time to match the rest of the lineup. And while Wild Cherry is a permanent flavor, Cherry Vanilla Pepsi will only be with us for a short time, approximately 8 weeks if the buzz is correct.
In fact, Pepsi seems to be running a contest called the "Pepsi Summer of Cherry" that will feature both brands of cherry. This new drink is available in standard (read: high fructose corn syrup-sweetened) and diet versions. Of course, Pepsi would prefer that you refer to it as "Pepsi Cherry Vanilla" and "Diet Pepsi Cherry Vanilla", but I don't know anyone on the planet who would call a drink that.
Let's start off with the packaging design… which frankly, is quite excellent. Overall, it's sharp. A "swirl" pattern sits behind the Pepsi globe with different shades of red, accented by one "beam" of tan/yellow denoting the addition of vanilla. On this "beam" sits the phrase "Cherry Vanilla". In contrast to Pepsi Wild Cherry — which has a blue cap on the 20 oz bottle, Pepsi Cherry Vanilla features a red cap. In fact, while Wild Cherry's new color scheme is primarily blue with some red accents, Cherry Vanilla plays up the red with just a few shades of blue and tan. While the new Pepsi logo still has detractors (myself included), this is a nice job on label design. Thumbs up!
Upon opening the package you are greeted with what you might expect from this type of drink… cola infused with the smooth scent of vanilla. Nothing too surprising here. Those of you who remember the "Vanilla Wars" (Vanilla Coke, Pepsi Vanilla) will recognize the aroma right away. Despite the name, it's hard to pinpoint any cherry in the smell.
But you want to know about the taste, right? Well, overall, it's good. To be honest, it probably skews more towards vanilla than cherry, though there is a cherry essence in there. For example, you know what an "aftertaste" is, right? Well, let's pretend we also have something called a "beforetaste" as well as a "midtaste" (I know, it's ridiculous, humor me here!). When you first put Cherry Vanilla Pepsi to your lips, you are greeted by a vanilla "beforetaste", followed by a cherry "midtaste", then wrapped up by a vanilla "aftertaste". It's basically a sandwich, with a weaker cherry flavor surrounded by two powerful slices of vanilla.
This drink isn't revolutionary by any means. It's really just the marriage of Wild Cherry Pepsi and Pepsi Vanilla… and that's not necessarily a bad thing. What would have made it innovative, however, would be the use of real sugar (i.e. Pepsi Throwback) to really bring out the clean taste and emphasize the vanilla smoothness+cherry sweetness. I think then we'd have a cherry spinoff to really get excited about!
So, what makes up this hybrid of flavors?
Pepsi Cherry Vanilla
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, natural flavor, phosphoric acid, potassium sorbate (preserves freshness), potassium citrate, citric acid, caffeine, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), vanilla extract
Cherry Vanilla Pepsi contains 3.2 mg/oz of caffeine, the same as standard Pepsi. A 20 oz. bottle contains 250 calories, 69 g of carbs (of which 68 g are sugars), and 55 mg sodium.
It's sad that Cherry Vanilla Pepsi is a limited-time flavor, because it's actually pretty good. However, it's probably not different enough to really stand out in the marketplace, which has pretty much killed all the previous cherry/vanilla releases we've seen over the years. It definitely can't co-exist with Wild Cherry Pepsi at the same time over the long haul. However, kudos to the PepsiCo folks on a spectacular job on the visual design, which is probably some of the best example of using the new logo system. Vanilla lovers will enjoy Pepsi Cherry Vanilla due to the dominance of that flavor, but enjoy it while you can… it won't be around forever!