Review: Sierra Mist Natural


Back in March, we wrote about Sierra Mist Natural and speculated on the future of the product, based on trademark filings by PepsiCo.


Sierra Mist Natural

Eventually, this speculation was confirmed by John Sicher at Beverage Digest when he noted via Twitter on August 24 that "PepsiCo's new Sierra Mist Natural, with sugar instead of HFCS, will start sale at some national retailers week of Aug. 29, say sources."

According to Pepsi and other sources such as Advertising Age, Sierra Mist Natural is taking the unprecedented step of actually replacing its namesake product. Though it's doing it with a different name (Sierra Mist Natural vs. Sierra Mist), here we have a situation where the high fructose corn syrup product is being replaced with "real sugar" on a permanent basis… something Pepsi Throwback, Mountain Dew Throwback, and Dr Pepper "Made with Real Sugar" fans seemingly have wanted for a few years now.


Sierra Mist

However, in this situation, what did PepsiCo really have to lose? Sierra Mist trails behind Coke's Sprite pretty significantly in market share. As a differentiator, it's worth a shot changing the sweetener to make this lemon lime brand seem attractive. Now granted, here at BevReview, we've not been shy in admitting that we've never really liked Sierra Mist. Frankly, we thought that Slice or even Storm were superior products. But alas, Pepsi continues to shove this product down the throats of consumers.

It's also seen its share of limited-time product extensions that attempted to add a little life into the brand, including Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash, Sierra Mist Lemon Squeeze, Sierra Mist Undercover Orange, and Sierra Mist Ruby Splash. We won't even go into all the name changes (Diet Sierra Mist to Sierra Mist Free back to Diet Sierra Mist) or logo redesigns. It's not been a pretty ride for this lemon lime.

The "Natural" name gets its heritage from the niche Pepsi Natural, which debuted in 2009 as a sugar-sweetened soft drink that tasted pretty good, but didn't really have the feel of its namesake. Pepsi has also trademarked the name "Sierra Mist Essence", but obviously went with the more familiar "Natural" moniker.

So, what's the big difference in Sierra Mist Natural? Let's take a look at the ingredients…

Sierra Mist
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavor, potassium benzoate (preserves freshness), potassium citrate, ascorbic acid and calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)

Sierra Mist Natural
Carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, natural flavor, potassium citrate

In all likelihood, the "real sugar" being used in Sierra Mist Natural is a combination of cane & beet sugars, as Pepsi has confirmed in the past with their Throwback products. If it wasn't, such as featuring the more-pricy cane sugar exclusively, I'd see the making a big deal about that in the marketing.


Ingredients of Sierra Mist

Ingredients of Sierra Mist Natural

Per an article in Advertising Age, customers wanted something "natural", and if this type of sugar pulls that off from a marketing perspective, Pepsi is probably thinking "why spend the money?" on the more expensive stuff.

PepsiCo is eliminating Sierra Mist in favor of Sierra Mist Natural, which is sweetened with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. The move, which has been in the works for about 18 months, is two-fold. Research showed that brand loyalty in the lemon-lime category is lower than it is in the cola category. And the natural food and beverage category is exploding.

"There's not a strong reason to choose one [lemon-lime] brand over another. … And when we asked consumers what would re-engage them in soda, 'natural' was the No. 1 concept," Ms. Mangelsdorf said. "The notion of a mainstream lemon-lime soda felt like a huge territory."

Ms. Mangelsdorf expects the shift will make Sierra Mist "extremely competitive" with Sprite, adding that the brand should easily exceed its previous peak performance figures. (According to Beverage Digest, Sprite is more than four times larger than Sierra Mist, with a 5.5% share in 2009 compared to Sierra Mist's 1.3% share and 7Up's 1% share).

Sierra Mist Natural
Comparison: Sierra Mist vs. Sierra Mist Natural logos

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners created Sierra Mist's new graphics, as well as the campaign, which breaks Sept. 20. It will include 15- and 30-second spots, as well as digital, radio, print and out-of-home.

The last part of that quote notes the new look for Sierra Mist Natural. Yes, once again the label gets a redesign.


Comparison of bottle color between Sierra Mist and Sierra Mist Natural

As you can see, there's a larger emphasis on the word "Mist" with a very, very notation of "Sierra". A lighter, more transparent look also conveys the idea that this is a "healthier" beverage.


"Real Sugar" emphasis with Natural

As has become commonplace, we see the shoutouts of "Made with Real Sugar" and "No artificial ingredients" being proclaimed on the label.


Gone is "100% Natural Flavors" on Sierra Mist

Gone is the phrasing "100% Natural Flavors", which is sort of ironic, since now it's more valid than before. The label on the 20 oz. bottle is translucent in places, showcasing the drink. In addition, the color of the green plastic bottle is lighter in hue vs. the previous Sierra Mist bottle, again given the impression of a look that is closer to water in transparency.


See the difference in logo style?
(Photo by Gregory Koval)

BevReview fan Gregory Koval spotted both Sierra Mist and Sierra Mist Natural side-by-side in a store in Pittsburgh, PA and snapped some photos. You can see the large difference in designs between the two products. However, with the original flavor being phased out, it won't matter much eventually.

So what does this stuff actually taste like? Is Natural better than the original Sierra Mist? We tasted the two products side-by-side and even compared their look when poured into a glass.

While regular Sierra Mist felt heavy and more syrupy, Sierra Mist Natural had a lighter feel to it overall. It possessed a stronger citrus taste that portrayed a strong crispness. It almost felt more carbonated, to be honest. A stronger citrusy scent was also obvious when you first opened the drink.


Sierra Mist Natural: Small Bubbles

Sierra Mist: Large Bubbles

However, things got a little different the more we explored the drink. Unlike other real sugar lemon lime drinks we've tested, such as Bubble Up, the crisp and clean start to Sierra Mist Natural leaves for a peculiar aftertaste. I've seen some folks mention that it almost tastes like a diet soda. I will admit that at first, this wasn't a very good thing. I mean, seriously, what could go wrong here?

That said, it was a taste that seemed to be acquired quickly over time because as we moved beyond the initial sips of Sierra Mist Natural, the aftertaste actually wasn't an issue. Overall, we really wanted to like this drink because of the "real sugar" element. However, that quirky taste isn't going to help, I'm afraid.

It should be noted that Diet Sierra Mist continues seemingly unchanged from its previous formula. Even though there is a trademark filing for Diet Sierra Mist Natural, that phrasing won't be used at this time.


(Source: GillettePepsiCola.com)

However, Walton Beverage Co's distributor website notes that "Diet Sierra Mist and Diet Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash will be restaged with great new graphics but will not be converting to Natural until 2011." Additionally, "Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash will also be reformulated to be 'naturally sweetened'."


(Source: GillettePepsiCola.com)

Will this move to Sierra Mist Natural help the lemon lime fortunes of Pepsi? I guess we'll know for sure in a year or so. But given the history of turbulence in the Sierra Mist brand, does anyone want to place a bet on when the next reboot will be?

Comments

  1. I have been drinking the Natural for a few weeks now, I love it! No more deadly chemical!!! Those who what the HFCS back need to get there heads examined!!! That stuff will kill you!! This is the only soda I drink now, and same for my son!!!

  2. I used to hate Sierra Mist but after trying the natural version it has fast become my favorite soda.

    This soda is delicious and I hope its permanent

  3. there is also 0 aftertaste. Least I never tasted one

  4. We have been buying the Natural for about 3 or 4 months now and yes it does take a minute to get used to but we love it. It reminds me of the natural citrus sodas in Europe. We no longer by dark colored sodas(carmel color-carcinogen). Besides water…this is all we keep in the house. Had a taste of regular soda and we just can't get over how heavy and sweet these drinks are with corn syrup…yuck!

  5. I was surprised to discover I really do like sierra mist natural. I hated sierra mist and I can't stand the tastes of diet drinks. I do prefer to drink the "throwbacks" when I find them. I find the drinks with real sugar taste better than those with fructose syrup. I took a mountain dew and a throwback md and found the mountain dew had a left over syrupy taste and the throwback did not. I now think sierra mist natural is my favorite non-caffeine drink right now. I love the flavor and that it doesn't have that syrupy aftertaste.

  6. Not to mention the wierd taste, this new formula gives me a stomach-ache. I got one after each can I drank. No more.

  7. NeegroJohnson says:

    Why are these anti-hfcs people so adamant that we will get acquired to the strange diet taste of natural? I really have given SMN multiple chances but every time I do I am painfully disappointed. If Pepsi was going to do something as radical as change the entire formula they could have at least still sold the original product to us devoted to the hfcs formula. By the way all soda is still bad for you. All of you anti-hfcs need to check out that even if they got the hfcs' outta the formula it is still not healthy to drink. You people need to stop contradicting yourselfs.

  8. I think tht they should put samples out nd give the consumers a choice I love the sierra mist cranberry but the natural taste like diet and its so so sweet I can't drink a whole can its gross…..I wasted a whole 12 pack not a happy consumer at all

  9. I am allergic to beet sugar. I am allergic to sulphites, which beets have naturally. I thank you for posting the contents. And although it says "sugar", I really wish that companies should say what kind of sugar. It's exhausting to do all this research before eating or drinking anything.

  10. Pepsi – Good job!! Now just get rid of all the corn products in your sodas, put your sodas in glass bottles, and use pure cane sugar!!!! Thanks.

  11. Bought a liter of SERRIAMIST Lemonlime soda nomally i like the taste but this one tasted like it was full of dirt . would like to try again but not sure will take the chance .Thanks for your product in the past.Bob

  12. It says "sugar" which means it's not natural or real because it's using GMO sugar beets. If it was using cane sugar it would say so. GMO sugar beets are genetically modified and sprayed abundantly with pesticides.

    If you're looking for a truly natural lemon-lime flavour drink you want one that's organic and made with cane sugar, as there is no GMO sugar cane in existence.

    Also this lists "natural flavor" and as a little research will show this could be any number of a thousand different chemicals made by the same companies that make perfumes for smell and taste. The only difference between "natural" and "artificial" flavors in some cases is how they are processed, ie – with heat or not.

    Don't be fooled by the "Natural" label, there are no label requirements in place at all for what allows a product to be labelled natural. This is a complete sham. If you care about your health you'll simply steer clear of all PepsiCo and Coke products until they release something that is actually organic. Natural means bunk.

  13. Ok so . . . this forum has been out for awhile, not sure anybody actually still reading however I was in the hospital for about a week or just shy of a week and they put me on a 1800 calorie diet (like a diabetic) but they allowed me to drink diet sierra mist (natural). I have been addicted to the worse. . . (Mountain Dew) for the last 10 years. I am not a very tall person, 5'1 and have weighed about 160 the last few years. Being in the hospital with combo of 1800 calorie diet & the one soda I was allowed to drink I lost 20 lbs. I have been out of the hospital for about 30 days and I have put none of the weight back on. I cannot even drink Mountain Dew anymore, its too sugary & I love the Diet Sierra Mist. Pepsi, don't change back! And get rid of the non-natural sodas, they do no good, and are addictive. May benefit company but it's not benefiting Americans.

  14. Elizabeth Brock says:

    The Sierra Mist natural taste nothing like the original. It taste too much like a diet drink. Looks like I'm going back to Sprite.

  15. First off, for you conspiracy paranoiacs, I do not work for CSA, any corn lobbyists, soda companies nor anything to do with HFCS. I'm a stay at home mom.

    I usually drink throwback Mt dew, sometimes the throwback Coke. I started drinking the Sierra mist Natural as an alternative to caffeinated soda. It isn't like I've been bewitched with the cloying taste of HFCS. I STILL think that SMN tastes like a slightly flat diet soda. There's a slight artificial aftertaste, and no, I haven't gotten used to it. Also, I noticed that after drinking a half can or less, I get a mild stomach ache.

    Now what do I do with the rest of this 12 pk?

  16. Dudes —I'll bet the "natural flavoring" is stevia. That is what it tastes like to me. –Stevia is natural, and sweet!

  17. they put waaaayyyyy to much citric acid in it.There is NO NEED for added citric acid since it is NATURALLY in citrus fruits to begin with. That's what causes the upset stomachs. STEVIA is a Natural Sweetener ,NOT a "natural flavoring". The natural flavoring is lemon juice and lime juice(look at the pics of lemons and limes on the label)

  18. Regarding…No more deadly chemical, Beet sugar is made, if I am not mistaken, from genetically engineered Beets that not only have had their dna changed but use Monsanto chemicals to grow. Maybe I' am wrong. But that is as I understand the Beet Sugar that us made and used today.

  19. headache says:

    HORRIBLE headaches after drinking sierra mist natural for both me and my son who is 12. it gave me headache's so bad that i threw up. you should all do a little more research on this. looks like it's loaded with aspartame.

  20. New Sierra Mist taste really horrible, doesn't taste sweet at all

  21. SplendaGivesMeHeadaches says:

    Yes, I suspect it has sucralose as one of the ingredients. I get a nasty headache every time I drink one. I knew this already about myself from previous experience (thank you kool-aid). I am amazed that they don't have to list this on the ingredients.

  22. Bottom line for me is that Sierra Mist just tastes good. I much prefer the taste over any other Lemon/Lime soda on the market. I don't drink caffeinated sodas due to having a enlarged prostrate, but before that I was addicted to Mountain Dew. I have found a really great way to make my Sierra Mist taste even better. There is a Orange juice called Simply Orange, with a variation that adds Mango juice. I put a few ounces of that in a glass, and then add a can of Sierra Mist. The taste is delicious! Try it.

  23. I don't know if we got a bad bottle of this stuff or what, but what I tried was DISGUSTING. Not even exaggerating. I had tried the diet Cranberry Sierra Mist and liked it, so I didn't think this kind would be too different. I legit checked my glass to make sure that it had been cleaned properly before taking another sip. It tasted almost metallic. I dumped it down the drain.

  24. This is funny. Giving a feeling of 'safety' to the naïve. For those of you avoiding HFCS, you do know that Beets (which Sierra mist uses to make this 'sugar') is a GMO crop just like the corn used to make corn syrup, right? Smh.

  25. Like the taste so have repeatedly tried a little bit and I have serious allergic reactions. Hives on my face have happened, my eyes get a weird angular appearance, dry skin, painful and itchy bump on my hand (within under 5 minutes), dry patches of skin all over the face if I drink much of it, constipation. So I have come to the realization that it is not so much the lemon but the lime in lemon lime drinks that I dont do well with. I dont have this with lemonade. I do get dryer but skin drinking lemonade, but it does not cause these allergic reactions. This may sound crazy to you if you havent had this reaction before to something, but it is real. I do not do well with it. Today i drank about 4 ounces and had instant reactions. Also the salacyclics (in lemonade too) do give me tinnitus. It all sucks getting old

  26. I thought for sure there was something seriously wrong with the 2 liter Sierra Mist Natural soda i bought. Worse tasting soda of all time. Tastes like someone took Tab soda, made it clear and then added the worst nastiest tasting chemicals too it. Just threw it down the drain. Horrible.

  27. Just had some, and the first thing I said was "tastes like sucralose." Yuck. Whenever something says "made with real sugar", isn't that the slogan for Splenda? Will water my plants with it and move on. Sorry, Pepsi, but you just lost a customer, just like all the other sucralose-sneaking companies out there like Swiss Miss and Nestle cocoa and Lipton Ice Tea, those of us who actually have taste buds will spend our dollars elsewhere. My big beef is WHY ARE YOU HIDING THE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS BY NOT LABELING YOUR PRODUCTS AS "LITE" OR "DIET?" WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO PULL?

  28. There is nothing "natural" about Sierra Mist Natural. That weird after taste is aspartame. I know it is by the taste and also because it makes my stomach hurt and gives me a headache. Pepsi is able to hide the aspartame by claiming it is "natural flavoring."

Trackbacks

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