Review: Big Red


The other day a friend asked me, "what's this Big Red I keep seeing on billboards?" Knowing that she was referring to the outdoor advertising campaign that the beverage brand had launched here in Chicago, I was about to shoot her a link to my Big Red review here on BevReview. Then I realized… I've never actually reviewed Big Red! How could I have not formally written about it after all these years? Well, it's time to make things right!

Big Red

Big Red was created in 1937 as a type of red creme soda, originally under the name Sun Tang Red Cream Soda. The drink was first produced in Waco, TX. While it's been around a while, it hasn't had the national recognition and footprint that other beverages have enjoyed, especially outside of its home in the South.

Believe it or not, Big Red Inc. is actually the 8th largest carbonated soft drink company in the United State (per Beverage Digest, "Top-10 CSD Results for 2010"). If you are curious, slots 1-6 are owned by Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple, Cott, National Beverage, Hansen's, and Red Bull.

The company is independent, though Dr Pepper Snapple Group purchased a minority interest in 2008, and is currently Big Red's largest distributor, handling around 80% of the company's volume (per DPSG press release). Joining Big Red are other flavors, such as Big Blue, Big Peach, and Big Pineapple.

The parent company also has a few divisions, one of which is All Sport, the sports drink brand once created by Pepsi and then later sold when PepsiCo got their hands on Gatorade via purchase of Quaker Oats. Another division, North American Beverages Products, cranks out NuGrape, Nesbitt's, and other soft drink brands, which were acquired by Big Red in 1999. In that same year, Big Red made a $7.95 million offer to buy Jones Soda, which was later rejected.

Big Red Packaging Design
(Source Images: Big Red. Comparison by BevReview)

Earlier this year, Big Red went through a packaging redesign to update their look (and frankly, they didn't change much). They also launched an ad campaign called "Tastes Good To Be Different," including their first television commercials in over 25 years. The TV ads are running in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Houston, Indianapolis, and Tampa. It's obvious they are trying to get the word out to growing markets.

Big Red Billboard
(Source: Big Red)

The bottle of Big Red used for this review still featured the older packaging design, but the stuff inside tastes the same. The red creme soda elements harken back to other bubble gum-like flavors we've reviewed, including Jones Blue Bubble Gum Soda, Barq's Red Creme Soda, and Pop Goes the Bubble Soda. Upon twisting off the cap of the 20 oz bottle I had, you can definitely smell that bubble gum/strawberry scent, specifically that type of gum that had a powdery residue inside the wrapper.

As for the flavor, your beginning sip is subdued, but as Big Red washes over your tongue, the extreme sweetness of the drink really stands out. At this point, the bubble gum-ness of the taste becomes apparent as it flows off into a sweet aftertaste. It's syrupy overall, attributed to the non-natural flavor selection and the use of high fructose corn syrup (another product from the company, Retro Big Red, uses real sugar). Overall, the experience is about what you would expect from a red creme soda-type flavor. Very sweet, gum-like, and syrupy. Those who are fans of the strawberry/creme soda experience will be pleased.

Unlike a lot of other fruit-flavored soft drinks, Big Red contains caffeine, 3.12 mg/oz or a little over 63 mg for the entire 20 oz bottle. Nutritionally, the same size bottle also contains 250 calories, 50 mg sodium, and 62.5 carbs (62.5 sugars). Ingredients are: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, natural and artificial flavor, Red 40, citric acid, and caffeine.

Comments

  1. My first initial thoughts when I hear the name "Big Red": fake. As in, not that it doesn't exist. But I think of fake flavor. Fake ickiness. Although your review saying that it has a cremey flavor makes me want to try it. The creme flavor makes it seem like it's got a little more extra something other than fakeness.

  2. I live in san antonio tx and big red is like our unofficial city drink lol evn on sundays at least 99% of the city is drinkn big red while eating barbacoa its our so called hangover cure

  3. kevin canales says:

    i am from san antonio texas and grew up on big red!! i live in alaska now and am blessed the only walmart here sells it!! but u have to b there when they stoc the shelves cause they go in a day!!! BIG RED keep doin your thing!!! if you dont like it dont drink it give it to me!!!

  4. I've been drinking Big Red for 40 years and I would never say it has a "bubble gum" flavor. Yuk! Creme flavor, yes. Yum.

  5. I've been seeing this at Wal-Mart, but I've never tried it because I figured it was another generic strawberry soda, similar to Strawberry Crush, which I hate. I've never seen a commercial for it, though, and all our local channels are Chicago stations. I'll probably try it, but I'd prefer the Retro version. I'm guessing the Retro version isn't as widely available, though. I have a hard enough time just tracking down Pepsi Throwback. It's sold out constantly.

  6. I've been drinking Big Red for 30 years. I choose that over any other soda. cant get enough of it

  7. I was born and raised in San Antonio, TX, and I love Big Red….I moved to Cleveland, Oh a year ago and thank goodness they sell it over here….its like a little taste of home so far away…..Thanks Big Red!!!!

  8. I am also from San Antonio originally, after I moved to Chicago I would bring two six packs of the then 16 ounce bottles back on the plane after visiting family in Texas. Until we discovered a little Mexican Grocery store in Harvard IL that sold Big Red that they had shipped in. We would pay $5.00 for a 12 pack of cans, to cover their shipping costs. Big Red is best served as a float with Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream or barbacoa. Unfortunately I cannot get barbacoa in South Florida. Buy Big Red and Blue Bell are in almost every store here

  9. alleyrulez says:

    good to see Big Red getting some much deserved respect. being from Texas, I still remember my grandmother making us Big Red "slushes".

    still trying to find the elusive "Big Red Retro".

  10. Another former Texan, I can't seem to find it here in Colorado, but I always pick up a bottle or two when we go back to Texas to visit family. Can't say it is one of my favorite sodas, but nostalgia keeps me buying it.

  11. It's been available here in the San Francisco area since at least the early 80's. I remember buying it at the local gas station when I was a kid. I still buy Big Red & Big Blue at the local liquor store but the big chain supermarkets don't carry it.

  12. I finally got around to trying this. Wal-Mart had little 12 oz. bottles at the checkout and I grabbed one. To me, it tastes like Fanta Cream Soda mixed with bubble gum flavor. It's good, but not something I'd drink everyday. Still, I love that it has caffeine in it, so I have another option for caffeine intake other than Pepsi Throwback all the time.

  13. I live in Virginia. I want to know where I can order this big red pepsi product from.. I love it..

  14. Joann Anderson says:

    At least 2 to 4 sodas in every 12 pack and we buy a lot of big red y that's the only thing wrong with it love it

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 8th, 2011 by Steve We recently reviewed Big Red, the flagship red creme soda-like beverage from Big Red, Inc. that first debuted in 1937. 71 years [...]

  2. [...] I was a bit tentative when taking a look at Big Pineapple, from the same folks that brought us Big Red and Big Blue. Thankfully, my preconceived notions were [...]

  3. [...] is a product of the New Perfection Beverage Company, which just happens to be a division of Big Red. The name seems to be inspired by the French term "sans" which translates to "without," obviously [...]

  4. [...] reviewed Big Red not that long ago, and found that its passionate fans often disagreed with our take that it had a [...]

  5. [...] of Big Red Zero. How about the taste? Our original review of high fructose corn syrup-sweetened Big Red described the drink as follows: Your beginning sip is subdued, but as Big Red washes over your [...]

Speak Your Mind

*