Review: RC Ten

We wrap up our look at the 2nd Generation of “Ten” flavors from Dr Pepper Snapple Group with this exploration of RC Ten. It joins Sunkist Ten, 7Up Ten, A&W Ten, and Canada Dry Ten in following up the launch of Dr Pepper Ten.

RC Ten

The flavor portfolio at Dr Pepper Snapple is quite diverse; in fact, a large bulk of their lineup is flavored carbonated soft drinks. They don’t have much in the way of mainstream colas, however, other than Dr Pepper and RC. Given that the good Doctor isn’t often thought of as a classically-flavored cola (and is already a “Ten”), a non-Pepper cola would seem to round things out, joining the recent additions of orange, ginger ale, lemon lime, and root beer. Enter the “need” for RC Ten, currently being tested here in Chicago, as well as Des Moines, IA, and Evansville, IN.

Of course, this might prompt you to ask yourself, “when was the last time I actually had an RC?” With most restaurant soda fountains serving up either Coke or Pepsi, you’ll often find RC Cola offered as a budget option at the local grocery store, pizza place, or as a carbonated soft drink option at restaurants that tend to deal primarily in alcoholic beverages. The RC brand was sold in 2000 to what is now Dr Pepper Snapple Group. One year later, the Cott Corporation landed the international rights, and thus control the brand outside of the U.S. except for a few select markets. Here in the United States, the brand is currently represented by RC, Diet RC, and Cherry RC.

For the most part, RC hasn’t seen much action or innovation as a brand since being a part of the DPSG portfolio. Thus it’s interesting to see it used as a part of this test with RC Ten.

The Ten Lineup

Along with the rest of these 2nd generation “Ten” flavors, RC Ten is influenced by the design of the Dr Pepper Ten label, including the use of the flagship “Ten” grey color. RC is prominently blue with red accents, so the grey matches quite well. However, Diet RC already uses a silver color, thus RC Ten might not stand out on the shelves, which could negatively influence the product testing.

RC Ten

The similarities are more obvious in the can and 2-liter designs; the “Legacy” 20 oz bottle seems to do a nice job of mixing the full calorie and diet versions into the “Ten” look. In any case, if there’s confusion here, it could hint at a design faux paus, much like Coke’s “Arctic Home” White Cans, which were later scrubbed because of customers mistaking the white cans for Diet Coke.

RC Ten

Like others in the “Ten” lineup, the packaging proclaims that RC Ten offers “10 Great Tasting Calories.” However, unlike the others in the “Ten” lineup, RC Ten seems to be sweetened by everything but the kitchen sink (and Stevia), utilizing 4 different types: aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), sucralose, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This is notable because other “Ten” installments tend to follow the artificial sweetener profile of their Diet brethren, such as was done in Sunkist Ten, 7Up Ten, A&W Ten, and Canada Dry Ten. Dr Pepper Ten used both aspartame and Ace-K, while Diet Dr Pepper only uses aspartame.

As part of the role of the “Ten” flavors is to lure non-diet drinkers over to a lower calorie option, and do it in such a way as to not seem like a diet (a.k.a. let’s get more men to drink the “Ten” stuff), we compared the flavor of RC Ten side-by-side-by-side against full calorie RC, as well as the existing no calorie option, Diet RC.

All 3 drinks have the dark brown color associated with a cola. There doesn’t seem to be a color difference involved. Original RC and RC Ten have the most “cola” scent coming off them; Diet RC’s scent is more subdued and not really cola-like. If you are familiar with the taste of RC, then you can understand that it’s a basic cola, more subtle in sweetness like Coke instead of Pepsi. When you add Diet RC’s use of sucralose, the overall flavor experience can best be described as “plastic-y.” From start to finish, something just seems a little off. It’s definitely a diet drink and the taste reflects it. You aren’t going to convince a regular RC drinker that Diet RC tastes just like it.

Enter RC Ten into the equation. The plastic taste that we found with Diet RC is gone, but a different set of aftertastes kick in. The use of HFCS starts off the beverage nice, on par with the full calorie version of RC. But then the cocktail of aspartame, Ace-K, and sucralose take over. Like we’ve found with the other “Ten” products, this iteration is far better tasting than the Diet version, but doesn’t match the flavor experience of the original. Unlike more flavored drinks like orange, colas seems to be harder to work with when attempting to “hide” the use of artificial sweeteners. And as we’ve previously noted, RC Ten breaks from the examples of the other “Ten” line by seemingly going with a completely new formulation instead of just a modified version of the Diet. In this case, it works as well as it probably can, which is a good thing. It’s not a bad low calorie cola.

RC Ten
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate, aspartame, natural and artificial flavors, potassium benzoate (protects flavor), caffeine, citric acid, acesulfame potassium, acacia gum, sucralose

A 12 oz can contains 10 calories, 45 mg sodium, and 3 g carbs (3 g sugars). Caffeine content is 3.58 mg/oz.

For those interested in a comparison…

Diet RC
Carbonated water, caramel color, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate, sucralose, citric acid, acacia gum, potassium benzoate (protects flavor), caffeine, natural flavors, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives)

A 12 oz can contains 0 calories, 45 mg sodium, and 0 g carbs (0 g sugars). Caffeine content is 4.00 mg/oz.

RC Ten attempts to take a legacy cola brand and update it for a calorie-conscious consumer who requires better flavor. It succeeds.

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