Review: Citrus Blast

Let’s get right to the point… Citrus Blast is Pepsi’s version of grapefruit-flavored Squirt, a product of Dr Pepper Snapple Group. It’s a blatant knockoff!

Citrus Blast

We’ve previously reported on the history and speculation regarding the existence of this drink. In short, it’s our feeling that Citrus Blast exists solely because both Pepsi and Coke lost distribution rights to Squirt in 2009-10, thus they needed a product to fill the caffeine-free, citrus niche. Coke already offers both Fanta Grapefruit (formerly Fanta Citrus or Citra) and sugar-free Fresca, but Pepsi did not have a comparable product already in the fold.

Citrus Blast

To solve this problem, it would appear that Pepsi spent a total of $51 on the development of Citrus Blast. $50 was given to an intern to steal the formula of Squirt from a bottler, while the final $1 was given to a low-bid designer to come up with the worst possible name and packaging graphics. Seriously, it looks like a cross between a floor cleaner and a generic Mountain Dew copycat from a local supermarket chain.

Citrus Blast

Our review bottle of Citrus Blast came in a standard 20 oz. plastic container, tinted green… just like Squirt. The primary color of the label is bright yellow, with the name of the product pronounced in red… just like Squirt. There are lime green accents, something that looks like a “juice drop,” and the graphical interpretation of a grapefruit shape… just like Squirt. Even the font selection parallels the historic style of Squirt prior to its late 2010 redesign. It’s pretty obvious where Pepsi got their inspiration. (As far as we know, there isn’t a Ruby Red or Citrus Power flavor of Citrus Blast yet… give Pepsi 6 months to fire up the photocopier!)

Squirt label designs
Recent Squirt label designs

Crack open the bottle and you see a cloudy, white-colored beverage… yes, just like Squirt, but also comparable slightly with the likes of Mountain Dew White Out or Canfield’s 50/50. You are greeted with a sweet scent that’s faintly hinting of lemon, but also has a sharpness associated with the citrus fruits of Florida. Think grapefruit and oranges.

Citrus Blast

Given all of the comparisons we’ve made between Citrus Blast and Squirt, you probably are wondering about the taste, right? We tested the drinks side-by-side and believe it or not, they aren’t exactly the same. The iconic Squirt flavor is sweet, citrusy, and has quite a bit of harsh bite that stings in the back of your throat. In contrast, while Citrus Blast also had the sweet, citrus flavor, it was considerably more smooth than Squirt. Less harsh, more drinkable in a casual context, even with food.

Citrus Blast

The flavor lingers a bit after your initial sip and then eventually fades away in a syrupy aftertaste (it is, after all, sweetened by high fructose corn syrup). Personally, I think this is a missed opportunity for Pepsi to really differentiate the drink vs. Squirt by using sugar, in the vein of Sierra Mist Natural, Pepsi Throwback, and Mountain Dew Throwback. But given the lack of effort they seemed to show in every other aspect of this drink’s rollout, do you really think they cared that much about the taste or sweeteners?

Of course, as much grief as we are giving Pepsi for the Xeroxed nature of Citrus Blast, I must admit that it’s not a bad tasting drink. Of course, I was already a fan of Squirt, and if you find yourself in that boat, you are going to like Citrus Blast. It’s light, airy, and refreshing.

To be honest, the real gamechanger that this drink may be introducing is its artificially-sweetened sibling, Diet Citrus Blast. While Diet Squirt already exists, Pepsi’s larger distribution footprint will probably enable Diet Citrus Blast to get a better foothold on the market where Diet Squirt cannot be found. That may be the biggest difference that this drink rollout brings.

So thumbs down to Pepsi for giving absolutely no innovative effort through this Citrus Blast introduction. But thumbs up for a decent tasting, mass marketed citrus drink… that’s pretty much tastes like Squirt.

Citrus Blast
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, grapefruit juice concentrate, modified food starch, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate (preserves freshness), glycerol ester of rosin, natural flavor, potassium sorbate (preserves freshness), calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)

A 20 oz bottle contains 240 calories, 110 mg sodium, 64 g carbs, and 64 g sugars.

For comparison…

Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup and contains 2% or less of: natural flavors, concentrated grapefruit juice, citric acid, modified food starch, sodium benzoate (preservative), ester gum, brominated vegetable oil, calcium disodium EDTA (preservative)

A 20 oz bottle contains 240 calories, 90 mg sodium, 64 g carbs, and 62 g sugars.