Review: Pepsi Next


Here at BevReview, we've had a rather tumultuous history with Pepsi Next.

Pepsi Next

Pepsi Next - Can

In late 2010, based on our trademark research as well as information obtained from a few sources, we wrote a story speculating about a new drink called Pepsi Next. Just 5 days later, lawyers representing Pepsi proceeded to serve us with a Cease & Desist order regarding our story.

Do lawyers drink soda?

Do lawyers drink soda?

Among the demands made by Pepsi, they requested the names and contact information of our sources, as well as other site data. It was demanded that we remove all references to our original story, with the threat of lawsuit if we didn't comply.

Nice.

I come from a journalism/marketing/Web media background, so protection of sources is a very important issue to me. After consulting with our legal counsel, we proceeded to remove our original Pepsi Next story, but in doing so, also refused to provide any additional information regarding the sourcing of our article. We value the feedback and information we get from BevReview readers; we aim to maintain that trust even if it means losing the big story.

My "Next" Headache

My "Next" Headache

Of course, just a few days later, John Sicher and our friends at Beverage Digest confirmed our hunch, noting that "Pepsi recently concept-tested a product called 'Pepsi Next,' said to have 60 calories per can."

Yup, it's 60 calories!

Yup, it's 60 calories!

Which brings us to today… and the cans of Pepsi Next sitting on our desk.

Pepsi Next - Bottle

Pepsi Next - Bottle

While this wasn't the first time we've been legally threatened about our writing (just ask Monster Energy), it's a little hard to view Pepsi Next objectively. But we'll give it our best shot!

As noted, Pepsi Next was being tested in 2010 via targeted marketing research groups. The company originally trademarked two names: Pepsi Next (#77283282, filed September 9, 2007, abandoned June 6, 2011) and Diet Pepsi Next (#77268451, filed September 30, 2007, abandoned June 6, 2011). This is much like how they handled Pepsi Max, which was originally named Diet Pepsi Max. It left the company with options on how to best position the drink (as an alternative to full calorie… or yet another diet).

Those research tests must have been successful, because in June 2011 Pepsi announced they were were going to move the product into 2 test markets, Cedar Rapids, IA, and Eau Claire, WI. Pepsi decided to stick with the Pepsi Next name, abandoning their first two test market trademark filings and creating a new one for general sale, also called Pepsi Next (#85222610, filed January 1, 2011). We eventually arrive here in 2012 with Pepsi Next rolling out nationwide this month.

So what exactly is Pepsi Next? And why does it even exist?

Never Forget 2004: Coca-Cola C2 and Pepsi Edge

Never Forget 2004: Coca-Cola C2 and Pepsi Edge

Pepsi is pitching Next as a mid-calorie soft drink, targeted at an audience that is looking to cut back on calories, but doesn't like the taste of diet beverages. If this sounds familiar, it is, because both Pepsi and Coke tried it back in 2004 during the low-carb, Atkins Diet craze. Did we learn nothing from the complete failure of short-lived Coke C2 and Pepsi Edge? What has changed since then that would create a marketplace where Pepsi Next would be welcomed?

I'm not sure much has, other than Pepsi losing the #2 sales spot to Diet Coke (with Coke remaining #1 and Pepsi sliding to #3). Perhaps it's the increasing popularity of Coca-Cola Zero combined with the stillborn marketing of Pepsi Max (really, a beer bottle shape?). Maybe Dr Pepper Snapple Group's successful launch of Dr Pepper Ten (with 10 calories) and the expanded testing into other Tens (Sunkist Ten, 7Up Ten, A&W Ten, Canada Dry Ten, and RC Ten) has given Pepsi the confidence to launch Next.  Most likely it's the yearly decline in sales of full-calorie carbonated soft drinks.

Even if Pepsi Next is a successful product based on formulation and taste, can it be successfully marketed? Unlike Coke's easy-to-understand trilogy of cola beverage lines (Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero), Pepsi is far more confusing.

Can anyone even find Pepsi One (and its new design)?

Can anyone even find Pepsi One (and its new design)?

Along with the flagship (sweetened with high fructose corn syrup) and Pepsi Throwback (sweetened with "real sugar"), we have Diet Pepsi (sweetened with aspartame), Pepsi Max (originally branded as Diet Pepsi Max, redesigned a few times, and sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium, with some ginseng thrown in), and long-neglected Pepsi One (sucralose and acesulfame potassium). Then along comes Pepsi Next, which not only has high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, but also aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose. Got a headache yet?

Maximum Pepsi Taste

Maximum Pepsi Taste

Even the taglines are a bit confusing. For example, Pepsi Max argues that it has "Maximum Pepsi Taste" with 0 calories, while Pepsi Next claims "Real Cola Taste" with 60 calories per can.

Real Cola Taste

Real Cola Taste

Finally, there's the name itself. What does "Next" actually mean? Unlike something like "Zero," it doesn't come with its own definition.

What does "Next" even mean?

What does "Next" even mean?

No wonder it's hard to explain the differences with all these drinks! (We haven't even talked about the taste yet.)

Test Marketed Can vs. Actual Can Designs

Test Marketed Can vs. Actual Can Designs

The package design does not help differentiate Pepsi Next from others in the Pepsi lineup. During test marketing, Next showcased a can that was dark blue on the bottom, with different shades of lighter blue panels moving up the can until it was finally white/silver at the top. This created a great visual impression that it tastes like Pepsi, but is lighter.

Stripe can only be seen if you rotate can

Stripe can only be seen if you rotate can

However, the design that eventually rolled out to market took the standard Pepsi blue can and just made it a lighter shade of blue. And to add a little more brand confusion, they added the Coca-Cola "Wave" in white! Looking at the marketing artwork, this white band is pretty visible.

Why bury most of the white stripe on the back?

Why bury most of the white stripe on the back?

However, viewing bottles and cans in actual stores, this white band is buried on the back of the label. Who authorized this design? It's as if someone intentionally wants to confuse customers between Pepsi and Pepsi Next. Let's not forget that these are the same bozos who thought it was a good idea to launch the first generation of Pepsi Throwback in a blue can that was hard to differentiate on the shelves (thankfully, they fixed that in the 2nd, 3rd, and permanent releases).

Perhaps a simpler selling point would have been to create a product using stevia as part of the blend, maybe like Sprite Green (Pepsi is already using PureVia in various products). At least then it would have been simple to explain. "Pepsi taste. Fewer calories. All natural sweeteners." Done.

But enough about the history and positioning of this product. While that will go a long way to its success or failure, obviously the taste is rather important. Remember, Pepsi Next is not targeting existing diet soft drink customers. Rather, they are going after patrons of full calorie Pepsi in an attempt to create a new segment to grow, without cannibalizing their existing (shrinking) sales of carbonated soft drinks. Diet Mountain Dew saw positive growth for Pepsi last year, thus it makes sense to keep looking for better low/no-calorie products.

Does Pepsi Next stand out enough?

Does Pepsi Next stand out enough?

To most accurately compare the taste of Pepsi Next, we assembled bottles of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Pepsi Max to test against, much like we did with our reviews of the "Tens". Working off the base of regular Pepsi, given that's the target audience for Next, we compared how Next stacked up against other zero calorie versions of Pepsi.

I'm sure the "New" will help with visibility

I'm sure the "New" will help with visibility

Personally, I've long felt that Pepsi Max is a great product with poor marketing. Not only does it have zero calories and a decent Pepsi taste, but the no-longer-promoted ginseng element is a great differentiator against Coke Zero (remember the 2008 Super Bowl ad?). Thus I was surprised in blind testing to find myself liking Pepsi Next far more than Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max.

Just like we discovered in our reviews of the "Tens", the key is the high fructose corn syrup at the front of the drink experience. Pepsi calls this the "taste curve", specifically regarding when the drink first hits your tongue. Both Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max taste "diet" upon first hitting your mouth. Pepsi Next starts out with a sweet, more traditional Pepsi flavor, before switching to the often reviled aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners. When those kick in, it's far more like Pepsi Max in the flavor experience, with a strong chemical infusion.

As opposed to... "Fake Cola Taste"?

As opposed to... "Fake Cola Taste"?

Pepsi Next isn't a magic bullet. It still tastes "diet" in many aspects. But it's probably the closest non-Pepsi to match the flavor of the original. Granted, if you have issues with lots of artificial sweeteners (and there are 3 used in Next, just like RC Ten and Big Red Zero), then you are still going to have issue with Next.

New Flavor? Pepsi Next Paradise Mango

New Flavor: Pepsi Next Paradise Mango

Should Next succeed, Pepsi seems poised to make it a franchise, if their filings with the US Patent and Trademark Office are any indication. For example, it looks like they already have a flavor extension planned, Pepsi Next Paradise Mango (#85550914, filed February 2, 2012).

Coming Soon? Sierra Mist Next and Mountain Dew Next?

Coming Soon? Sierra Mist Next and Mountain Dew Next

And like Dr Pepper Snapple Group, it looks like they're ready to take the "Next" brand to other properties, such as Mtn Dew Next (#85231611, filed February 2, 2011) and Sierra Mist Next (#85231613, filed February 2, 2011).

Test Can for Pepsi Next

Test Can for Pepsi Next

Incidentally, a BevReview reader was kind enough to mail us a test can of Pepsi Next used in the initial marketing research phase of this drink's development from 2011. We compared the taste against what is available today with the official release version. In this case, both drinks tasted the same. I'm sure that other variations were used with target audiences, but it would seem that this particular strain definitely won out among the rest.

Even the bottle doesn't showcase the stripe very well

Even the bottle doesn't showcase the stripe very well

Pepsi Next won over test markets, but can this drink win over the general public, as sales of full-calorie soft drinks continue to decline? In my opinion, Pepsi Next is a great tasting mid-calorie version of its namesake. Unfortunately, given Pepsi's recent track record, it's predestined to fail due to poor positioning and marketing support. However, I welcome the chance to be proven wrong.

And please don't sue us!

Pepsi Next
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, natural flavor, phosphoric acid, sodium citrate, caffeine, potassium sorbate (preserves freshness), aspartame, citric acid, acesulfame potassium, sucralose

A 12 oz can contains 60 calories, 60 mg sodium, and 16 g carbs (15 g sugars). A 20 oz bottle contains 100 calories, 100 mg sodium, and 26 g carbs (26 g sugars). Caffeine content is 3.5 mg/oz.

Comments

  1. Drink Dude says:

    Nice write-up. I have not tried Pepsi Next yet but I imagine I will be sticking to Pepsi Max due to the lack of sugar and the higher caffeine content.

  2. Great review with quite a back story. Yes, I just got a case of the new Pepsi One cans, but they don't look like the one in the review. They looks like this: http://twitpic.com/8ztsg1

  3. Wow… I lost a lot of respect for Pepsi through this article. Great write-up but Pepsi's lawyers suck.
    As for Pepsi Next and all mid-calorie sodas, if I cared about calories, I would drink a diet soda or better yet, water. I don't think there is a middle ground between flavor and calories. Now if they made Pepsi Next with sugar like Throwback, I might be more convinced to give it a try.

  4. Next is such a strange name to me. I really don't think Pepsi would take you to court over posting speculative articles… I don't think that'd fly, especially if based off public information like trademark applications. It's just scare tactics to keep things secretive until they want to make it public… But you know the competition like Coca-Cola has people performing trademark and patent searches everyday, if they don't have people on the inside that share info with them.

  5. That photo I posted about is the 2005 version. D'oh! Nope. Never seen the new Pepsi One can! Thanks for the correction Steve. :)

  6. One of the things I first noticed about the can then reading the ingredients is they claim "60% less sugar" yet there is no real sugar in this soda (it's HFCS). I would much rather have the real Pepsi and drink less of it than to drink Next. A friend of mine drinks Pepsi MAX and loves it. I've tried it and it's not bad.

    But as a lover of soda, I will try a bottle of this sometime just to see what it's like.

  7. Pepsi seriously failed with Pepsi Next. By using aspartame they created another version of Pepsi that 10% of the population (such as myself) will find terrible tasting. I just did a blind taste test of Pepsi, Pepsi Max and Pepsi Next. While the Pepsi Next was not as horrible as the Pepsi Max, the horrible taste of the aspartame is definitely there. If they really want a product that tastes like Pepsi, but with less calories, they need to combine either real sugar or high fructose corn syrup with Splenda. For the 10% of the population that can't stand the taste of most 0 calorie sweeteners, a 60% sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) to 40% Splenda combination (or something close to that with more sugar than Splenda) would provide the best combination. For anyone that has no problem with the taste of aspartame, why bother with the 60 calories when you can probably drink Pepsi Max and find its taste acceptable? By the way, for any of you ten percenters, the 60-40 combination of sugar and Splenda works in almost anything (sweet tea, cakes, cupcakes, etc.) and provides reduced calories without sacrificing taste or sweetness (and no bitter aftertaste).

  8. Pepsi Next tastes very different from Pepsi. It tastes like an average tasting cola, only with a little bit of a sugary taste to it . In some of the aftertaste, it has a little bit of that sweet taste that the original Pepsi has. But regular Pepsi has a lot of that sweet watery taste in it though

  9. PLEASE, PLEASE give up the nasty artificial sweeteners and work out a stevia solution!! for God's Sake!!! Zevia tasts great and has no art flavors only stevia….problem is that the ihe co's like Pepsi and Coke need to do this to get the price lower!! Stevia is great, but way too expemsive! SoBe lifewater zero has only stevia and it is great! Why can't coke and pepsi get that worked out!!

  10. I enjoy the fact you drive into the past of Pepsi Edge and C2. I remember Pepsi adverting that during The Apperentice on NBC. I'm a Pepsi fan by heart, and I hope Pepsi cracks the code this time around.

  11. B-Rizzle says:

    Pepsi Next tastes pretty good. But not great.

  12. I've been drinking more diet soda lately. I found Pepsi Next and always willing to try something new I picked it up. I like it. But I agree with the article, I'm not sure it will last. I love Mountain Dew (particularly the Throwback, which was hard to give up). I've gotten used to the diet, but I would welcome a chance to try a Mountain Dew Next. We'll see.

    BTW, you can still find Pepsi One in our area in 2 liter bottles and 12 pack cans. But that's it. I wonder is it worth keeping anymore (does it have a substantial loyal following anymore?)

  13. I thought it was tasty, very much like regular Pepsi in flavor. But no, it won't last long. I don't think there's a market for it. People are trying to move away from chemical sweeteners, so a drink with every single chemical sweetener, plus hfcs, and still a fairly significant number of calories probably won't be very popular.

  14. Mizz Stephanie says:

    Well – I like Coke first off, because Pepsi tastes sweeter and less carbonated. So I thought the commercials meant Pepsi would have less sugar / fructose .. whatever. So I have been eagerly awaiting it. I opened a can in the store to try it before I bought loads of the cases that were amazingly low priced. Tasting .. tasting… mouth confused … "wait why is my mouth confused?" I say to myself. "Self what is so confusing about a simple beverage ? I mean you like plain soda water – why should this be any less satisfying ?" … To which myself replied "Well it tastes like chemicals, it tastes like diet-esque – it tastes like it itself is confused about what it tastes like" – I was like a cat licking a rash on his chubbie butt – wait this used to be fun – now it sucks ….

    So – Myself reads the can and sees the Fructose on the label and then the awful reality of artificial sweeteners. And Myself says – "They Donated to Obama and that still tastes bad in my mouth …. now this….." We now have eleven Pepsi Next Paperweights / Doorstops / Food Prepper Rations for Nuclear Fallout – Because unless it is an absolute emergency I just wouldn't do that to MYSELF – I'd rather lick the cat

  15. Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

    You can find Pepsi One almost anywhere in Wisconsin. I think people around here like the Splenda.

  16. I don't particularly care for Pepsi, and I hate the taste of diet soda because of the chemical aftertaste. But I decided to give Pepsi Next a shot, hoping they tried something different. No such luck. Like others have mentioned, it may not have initial aspartame aftertaste, but it does have aspartame aftertaste, just like Diet Pepsi. I haven't tried Pepsi Max, and by the reviews here, probably won't. The coke zero products are okay, they don't taste as much like aspartame, but they do taste bland, like there's not enough flavor or carbonation in them. Just off. You can definitely tell the Mellow Yellow Zero isn't right. Cherry Coke Zero is okay because the cherry masks the bland- and diet-ness the most. But yeah, won't try Pepsi Next again. If I want to drink a "lower sugar" soda, it won't be this.

  17. Oh this is definitely a fail. I got a free 2 liter with a coupon and I am so happy that I didn't have to pay for it or I would have been very upset. This stuff is so nasty. I can usually deal with a diet soda, but don't drink em, but aspartame and in this drink is just awful. I've always been a pepsi fan but this mess tases horrible. Tried to find an link to complain to the company and guess what, surprising none…Go figure. The way they want you to contact them is thru facebook, twitter, etc….Really.

  18. Johannes Høher-Larsen says:

    How about a tagatose solution? AFAIK it has no downsides. I can't bring myself over to diet soda, it tastes poisonous, but I'd be willing to try mixed variant like this.

  19. Pepsi Next doesn't have ANY sugar. It has vile HFCS

  20. mary breed says:

    nasty, nasty, nasty! what was the point of removing '60%' of the 'sugar' and adding back artificial sweeteners? That's the reason I don't drink diet soda to begin with. Who exactly are they marketing it to?

  21. Mark my words… Pepsi's "Next" products are destined to fail as long as they have HFCS (and aspartame).

  22. Congratulations to Pepsi, they have managed to put diet pepsi into a new can! To me it has the same disagreeable after taste as their diet stuff! I bought a 12 pack yesterday to give it a try, drank half a can and dumped the remainder. As for the other 11 cans, the contents is on the way to the sewage treatment plant and the aluminum cans are being recycled, hopefully in another life they will contain something good to drink.

  23. Pepsi Next would probably taste better to an avid diet soda drinker than a regular, sugar (or HCFS) soda drinker. I've been drinking mostly diet the last 6 months and Pepsi Next is an improvement on taste for me over diet. But I can see if you only drink regular soda and try to drink Next, it goes downhill.

  24. I have to agree with Bob's March 29 post. Though I would love to have less calories in my drinks, I detest diet sodas — mostly because of that nasty taste of aspartame. I failed to find that on the label on the quick glance I did before purchasing a bottle of Pepsi Next to taste. One swig and I knew the horrible truth — there was asparatame in this product! I really wish it had been what I thought it was going to be — a real soda just with less sugar and not some new mish-mosh of diet ingredients with a little bit of regular sugar/sweetener. Sorry but this one is yet another fail in my book…

  25. I tried Pepsi Next once (I happened upon it on a end-of-aisle Target display), and decided to try it, out of curiosity for the most part. I have always been a fan, if not devotee, to full-sugar Coke and Pepsi, and while I realize they are not healthy, I feel replacing sugar with a synthetic compound that may or may not cause cancer is not much smarter. However, Pepsi Next was a good alternative, if not THE alternative, to good-ol' cola. Like this review says, you taste the Pepsi and then the "diet" next, which is pretty effective. However, this leaves a weird taste on your mouth, and after drinking regular cola for a while, I can't see myself switching anytime soon.

  26. Rebecca Alimi says:

    I am surprised by this article – I have to say I like the idea. I totally get it – it's just like for the milk (whole, 2%, 1%…)! Come on guys, it is not rocket science!
    I tried the product this week end – I bought it at Target, the price was so low… and I liked it a lot. Of course, I detect the aftertaste – this is not my Regular Pepsi – but it is pretty good. And with half the sugar, it's make the ratio "pleasure / calories" interesting.
    As for the writter, I find the tone of the article unfairly harsh – can I kindly ask what great product YOU have launched to be so critical of Pepsi people??? Last time I looked, Pepsi was still one of the best marketeer in the world!!!

  27. Ever since Pepsi Edge was discontinued I have been looking for a lower sugar alternative to my beloved Pepsi. Diet, yuck. Pepsi Max, disgusting. So I tried Pepsi Next. Is it Pepsi? No. Is it good? ….yes? It isn't Pepsi but it is good. Since I am unfortunately a soda drinker, I want a lower sugar drink. I HATE that it has the artificial sweetner in it. It is damned near impossible for Pepsi to create a drink with less sugar that will live up to the expectations of your everyday soda drinker. We want less sugar and no artificial sweetners, but still want the exact same sweet sharp flavor. Personally I am impressed that Pepsi is still trying. And Pepsi Co, if you read this, please keep trying.

  28. i cannot drink this Pepsi on a regular basis like i can any other diet soda, since i am diabetic.
    the taste is nothing compared to the Original Pepsi ONE, a blend of ASPARTAME and ACEFULSAME gave it a truly unique Cola Flavor much closer to a Regular than this Pepsi Next.

    just as it sais pepsi NEXT ! as in bring on the NEXT Pepsi Cola.

  29. Michael says:

    Where are the Coke and Pepsi STEVIA (maybe with a tiny bit of erythritol and/or agave) colas ALREADY?!
    (Hasn't there been Stevia Colas in Japan for DECADES?!?!)

  30. I've tried Pepsi Next and I like it. Studies show that the zero calorie drinks are worse for you than the full sugar ones. Now we have a Pepsi with 50 or 60% less sugar. I still Love Pepsi Max especially for a wake-me-up.

  31. The reason these mixed sweetener drinks fail is because you either like the chemical sweeteners or you don't. Mixing them with each other or with HFCS or with real sugar doesn't get rid of the foul aftertaste.

    Aspartame, Cyclamate, Saccharin, Stevia, Sucralose, Mogrosides. Mmm mm.. sounds delicious and what could possibly go wrong? You know… like back when Lead Acetate was a sweetener.

  32. I just tried pepsi next. I think it's great. I cant stand diet pop and have avoided pepsi next for a while thinking it would have a bad after taste. It is actually quite good, no after taste and I think it tastes like a less sweet version of pepsi. I definately think I am switching!

  33. jorge rubio says:

    I just tried pepsi next for the first time today. I love original pepsi but my mom unfortunately cant drink original pepsi because of her diabetes, so every once and a while i'll find either a diet something in the fridge like a diet coke or diet pepsi. Me on the other hand have no problem with sugars but sometimes i get a comment here and there about watching my sugar intake, soo… Pepsi Next is something we both can agree on.

  34. tony howell says:

    i like pepdi next taste pretty good cant wait for mnt dew next i dont like the idea of all the fake sweeteners in it but i guess if you just lowered the sugar only it woulf be gross. btw i've never seen big red zero

  35. Just tried Pepsi Next. ICK ! We did not like the taste at all. A bit flat compared to other carbonated sodas. The large bottle went completely flat with no carbonation within a day or two. Would not spend my money on this. Regular pepsi or diet pepsi has to be so much better, even COKE !

  36. Total false advertising. More artificial sweeter crap disguised as a sugar soda. How can Pepsi claim this product has 60% less sugar, when it actually contains no sugar at all? That's dishonest, it's crazy. This is the most outrageous advertising claim I can recall ever seeing. High fructose corn syrup is not sugar. If Pepsi came out with a product that actually contained 60% less sugar and no artificial sweeteners, I would buy it, but Pepsi Next is a fraud.

  37. We are leistening here to the Devil himself, so what else besides Stevia is inside Pepsi Next..? aspartame or sulfatame or something else..? you only coul;d trust an european laboratory to test the ingredients of Pepsi Next. And do they will allow to do this..? I do not think so. Better to take just clear water passed under a purifier first.

  38. We are listening here to the Devil himself, so what else besides Stevia is inside Pepsi Next..? aspartame or sulfatame or something else..? you only coul;d trust an european laboratory to test the ingredients of Pepsi Next. And do they will allow to do this..? I do not think so. Better to take just clear water passed under a purifier first.

  39. J Hutchins says:

    I like Pespi Next. I had an tumor remove from my head back in 2011. My taste buds has been mess up since then. I use to drink Diet Pepsi before then. But I can't drink it anymore cause I can't taste it like I use too. After trying most of the brands soda on the market. I prefer Pepsi Next than any other brands on the market. That's even Coke, Dr pepper, and and most all others.

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