Review: 7Up (with new “crisp, clean” formula)

Back in May we noted that 7Up was once again planning on changing their formula, shifting to something that tasted “crisper.” Really? Crisper? How about “less crappy”? Because it seems like the folks at the Dr Pepper Snapple Group insist on just messing this drink up continually. Poor 7Up.

7Up with new "crisp, clean" formula in 2010

7Up with new “crisp, clean” formula in 2010

Go ahead and hit our May 2010 story for the recent history on all of 7Up’s changes, including the 2007′s ridiculous move to “100% Natural Flavors” (previously known as 2006′s “Now 100% Natural”).

As we noted in our Sierra Mist Natural review, all the big players seem to be giving their lemon lime offerings a reboot. PepsiCo just added real sugar to Sierra Mist, Coke is going to be rolling out a big ad campaign for Sprite (per Advertising Age), and apparently, that leaves 7Up with getting “crisper.”

Logo Comparison: 2006, 2007, 2010

Logo Comparison: 2006, 2007, 2010

Taking a look at the packaging, you can instantly see that the 7Up logo got a little refreshing compared to the previous iterations in 2006 and 2007. The underscore ribbon of “100% Natural Flavors” is now gone, with emphasis again placed on the images of lemons and limes. The main distinctive callout can be found on the upper left side of the logo, where the phrase “New crisp-clean taste” resides above a subdued mention of “100% natural flavors”.

The rest of the packaging remains pretty much the same… except when you get to the ingredients. No, 7Up hasn’t gone the sugar route. It’s still playing the high fructose corn syrup game (which I really hope we don’t have to start calling “corn sugar”). However, we see a change in the lineup. Let’s compare:

7Up (2007)
Filtered carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, natural citric acid, natural flavors, natural potassium citrate

7Up (2010)
Filtered carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup and less than 2% of natural flavors, citric acid, potassium citrate, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)

Aside from the removal of the “natural” marketing spin from the 2007 version, we now see the addition of calcium disodium EDTA. This is used in many beverages, but would probably also indicate a change in taste.

Upon opening the bottle, you are greeted with a very lemony scent, nothing out of the ordinary for 7Up. As for that first sip… yes, it’s different. While the rebooted 2006 formula tasted quite syrupy and in the same vein as Sierra Mist, the 2010 “cripsy” 7Up actually seems like a throwback to an older version. It no longer is seemingly trying to assimilate the flavor profile of either Sierra Mist or Sprite. Instead, it tastes, well, blander. But that’s a good thing in this case. It’s a cleaner-tasting drink now (just imagine if it had sugar in it!) We applaud this change, as it tastes like something closer to what you should be expecting from 7Up. The aftertaste doesn’t even stink anymore. It’s just there.

Yes, it's actually crisp and clean!

Yes, it’s actually crisp and clean!

Now, how do you market that type of flavor? We’ll let the advertising folks contracted by Dr Pepper Snapple Group figure that out as the months go by. But overall, it’s a step in the right direction. The parent company has for too long ignored this drink and given it lackluster promotion, design, and positioning. I’m not really impressed with the new label look, as it doesn’t seem progressive enough to help the brand gain some ground. I mean, take a look at the look of the drink in Canada (as noted by the folks in the BevNet forums). Granted, different organizations are responsible for the drink up there, but there could be some more innovative thinking going on regarding the look/feel.

That said, this new “crisp-clean” version of 7Up seemingly undoes the damage that was thrown its way during the 2006 “natural” shift. It positions the drink as more middle of the road, away from Sprite’s distinctively boring lemon-lime and Sierra Mist’s new sugar-sweetened take.