Of Ads and Sugar and Personal Taste  

Posted by Benjie in ,

I was intrigued recently by a commercial blitz. It started with the Superbowl ads for Pepsi Max. You know the campaign—targeting real men with this “healthy” version of Pepsi-Cola. The big ad on Superbowl Sunday had men encountering outrageously harsh pain with the age-old statement “I’m all right!” (or some variation thereof). It says a lot about a man’s machismo if he can be hit in the head with a bowling ball and respond with “I’m okay”. My son understands this concept and, whenever he trips and falls, re-echos, “I’m okay! I meant to do that.” He’s been doing that since he was three.

So these ads – I especially like the one which claims that the can houses a nuclear reactor (or some such) and upon crushing it the guy says, “Hey, I just crushed a nuclear reactor.” [For those who have seen the ad more than once, don’t fill the comment section up with corrections to my memory, that’s not the point. I'm posting it here to avoid confusion.]

Now I’ve periodically tried diet sodas. They’re supposed to be better for you and all that. And any time that I have encountered the word “diet” in the title of something that’s not really all that good for me to begin with, I get suspicious. I’ve heard the mantra of the diet soda cult – “You can’t tell the difference!” (repeat four or five hundred times).

And now for the truth: Some of the drinks sold in the category known as “diet soda” do indeed taste worse than others. I recall a swig of Tab from years ago. That seared a memory that will forever be with me. I recall the days of Sugar Free Dr Pepper, and a taste test of Pepsi One (supposedly not a diet drink, but it had the same effect on me as Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, and Diet Dr Pepper). The bottom line is that if a drink substitutes anything for the sugar or syrup that’s supposed to sweeten it; if the manufacturer tries to sell it with a “sugar free” tag-line – or even a “low sugar” tag line – the product will leave a taste in your mouth.

“You get used to it,” some of my friends argue – but if I have to get used to it, why would I want to drink it? As it is, I don’t drink that much soda anyway. I hear the same arguments about the use of certain artificial sweeteners, and “natural” sweeteners (you can’t tell the difference). But I have discovered that if it ain’t sugar, I can taste the difference. In fact, one popular sugar substitute today is made by changing the refining process for sugar (so it’s made out of sugar). I’m told that you can’t tell the difference when it is used – either by itself or mixed with sugar on the halvsies. But that’s a lie – you can tell the difference!

And so the point: The claim is that Pepsi Max is the kind of diet drink that real men can drink without fear of it being a sissy diet drink. So I had to try this new concoction. Who knows, maybe technology has found a way to make a low sugar drink drinkable. But alas, it has not happened. My advice to you, if you are not of the diet drink cult, and continue to taste the sugar substitute long after the drink is gone, don’t bother tasting this one. Great ad campaigns aside, Pepsi Max is just another in the long line of trying to get us to de-sugar our sugary drinks, and it tastes bad, too.

Here’s to you, Dr Pepper – and if anyone can find a bottle that’s sweetened properly with Imperial Pure Cane, send me some and I’ll be eternally grateful.

This entry was posted on 11 February 2009 at 2:47 PM and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 Reader Response(s)

You can do like Sheriff Rhodes and order your DP from Dublin Dr Pepper. Check it out.

3:03 PM

But Sheriff Rhodes is a highly sought after, boss of his area, crime fighting stud. Me, I'm just a lowly preacher and have to rely on others to have pity.

3:42 PM

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