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Review: Pepsi Throwback

A bottle of Pepsi Throwback, with a bottle of regular Pepsi next to it. Dig that retro logo, eh?

Back in the day, pop was sweetened with sugar, a delicious form of sweetness that brought out the best in soft drinks like Pepsi and Coke. Then business got in the way of pleasure, leading to corn syrup, a cheap and plentiful sweetener, replacing sugar in all sorts of things, including pop.

While most average joes probably couldn’t taste the difference between an apple and a pear, a vocal group of pop purists complained loudly that their soft drinks had been ruined by this sugar substitute.

That’s where Pepsi Throwback comes in, righting historical wrongs by replacing modern sweeteners with good old fashioned sugar. According to Pepsi, Throwback is little more than regular Pepsi with the sweetener swapped.

Upon first sip, it’s hard not to notice that they taste virtually identical. Honestly, I don’t know if I could pick them apart without having the bottles sitting in front of me. More on that in a sec.

The more I sipped, the more I picked out very slight differences. For one, Pepsi Throwback tastes slightly sweeter than regular Pepsi. Also, of the two, the Throwback’s sweetness is more mouth-filling, more rounded and more satisfying.

To indulge my own curiosity, I conducted a blind taste test in my kitchen. After many gulps from identical glasses, I picked out the Throwback, but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure until I checked the Post-It note on the bottom of the glass.

In practical terms, is Throwback different enough that you’re going to notice a difference? Probably not — this isn’t like comparing Pepsi to Diet Pepsi, or Pepsi to Coke. But is it better than regular Pepsi? Marginally, yes.

With that in mind, who will buy Pepsi Throwback? A quick list:

  • Those who are struck with a wave of nostalgia after spotting the spiffy retro Pepsi logo design in their grocery store’s cooler.
  • Curious foodies. The same people who seek out sugar-sweetened Coca-Cola during the Easter season, and who may really be able to taste the difference.
  • People who hate both corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, but who still want to enjoy a bottle of pop from time to time.

A special note for Canadians!: According to the Pepsi rep I spoke with, the Canadian two-month trial launch of Pepsi Throwback in early 2011 was so successful that they’re planning to bring it back for another limited run this summer. Expect to see it in Canada again in June 2011.

RATINGS AND DETAILS

Cost: $1.99 per 591 ml bottle at an Edmonton grocery store.

Value for cash money: About the same as regular Pepsi.

Availability: United States of America and, to a limited degree, Canada. Check grocery stores, convenience stores, and anywhere with a decent selection of Pepsi products.

Retro!: That’s right! Thanks to Canada’s French and English labelling, Throwback becomes Retro on the French portion of the label. Which is odd, really, because Pepsi Retro would have been just as good a name in English as it is in French.

Nutrition?: 110 calories per 250 ml, same as regular Pepsi. If you’re drinking it for its nutritional properties, you clearly failed health class.

The verdict: Good stuff. Instead of wasting time by adding things like lime flavouring to Pepsi, they’ve returned to a classic formula that’s almost identical to (and a wee bit better than) regular Pepsi.

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