When I was younger, I was a Sprite nut. I drank it all the time. I’m not sure how or when that changed, but it did somewhere along the way. Maybe it was the point when I realized that it wasn’t supplying me with my daily dose of caffeine. Since then, I’ve stopped drinking Sprite everywhere except at restaurants. I think that Sprite from a fountain tastes better than Sprite from a can. Or maybe Sprite just tastes better with food. Or maybe it’s an aversion to drinking caffeine late in the day and I carried the habit over from dinner to lunch. Dunno.

One of the things I miss most about Deseret was the proliferation of Pepsi products at restaurants. Pepsi isn’t very big in the South, where we call all soft drinks by their competitor’s name, leaving them Cannon to Coke’s Xerox. Being a good southern boy, I don’t care much for Pepsi, either, but since the restaurants carried Pepsi products that meant that they more often than not carried Mountain Dew. It wasn’t just a Coke/Pepsi thing, either, because those places that didn’t carry Pepsi products still carried caffeine-punched, citrusy Mello Yello, a brand that all but died in Delosa a long time ago. For a state whose primary religion discourages caffeine consumption, Deseretians like their caffeine.

Since moving to Estacado, I’ve all but stopped asking restaurants if they carry Mountain Dew. I’ve gone back to drinking Sprite. So when a group of us went out to eat lunch yesterday and the waiter asked what I wanted, I said Sprite and didn’t think any more about it. When Pat asked for a Coke and he said that they carried Pepsi, it didn’t raise the flag that it ought to have raised. After the waiter left, the thought did occur to me that I could have seen if they carried Mountain Dew, but the bigger looming issue didn’t confront me until I tasted my “Sprite” and discovered that it wasn’t Sprite at all. It was Sierra Mist.

It seems that whenever Coke or Pepsi comes up with something successful, the other will try to come up with an equivalent. When Dr Pepper was all the rage, Coke came up with Mr Pibb. Coke created Mello Yello as an alternative to Mountain Dew. Then, when that didn’t work, they released something called Surge when I was attending Southern Tech. Surge wasn’t very good (except with a certain kind of cookie), but since Sotech had signed over their soul to the Coca-Cola company and didn’t offer any competitors’ product, I had to make due. I learned to like it the same way that I learned to like beer… relentless conditioning. When they pulled Surge off the shelf, I shed not a tear. More recently, Coca-Cola has offered Vault, which is like Surge but with a more energy-drink feel (like MDX is to Mountain Dew).

One thing that Pepsi has always been missing is a lemon-lime drink to match Coca-Cola’s Sprite. Pepsi can and does sometimes align itself with Dr Pepper, but rather than taking advantage of their strong relationship with 7-up, Pepsi released Sierra Mist. And it is terrible. And for some reason, the waiter who was so conscientious about asking Pat whether Pepsi was okay with her when she ordered a coke, the guy didn’t ask me.

Sierra Mist has apparently been a pretty successful replicate compared to most and for the loss of me I cannot understand why. Seriously, Walmart brand tastes just as good. I remember commenting when Surge came out that it wasn’t as good as store brand Big K Citrus Drop, which at least managed to stake out its own taste. Similarly, Mello Yello has its own distinct taste. Surge was just a rip-off. Sierra Mist isn’t even a rip-off. It’s a cheap knock-off. Yet it has not only survived, but it has eclipsed 7-Up as the chief alternative to Sprite. As Surge and other failed attempts have indicated, a soft drink company can’t force such a thing onto the public (and since Pepsi has a special relationship with 7-Up it was hardly necessary that they try), which means that somebody somewhere actually likes this stuff.

I drank three sips of it and then flagged down the waiter and asked for a Mountain Dew, Pepsi, or anything else they might have instead. The earnest waiter actually bought me both and took the Sierra Mist out of my sight.

Category: Kitchen

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7 Responses to Sprite – Sierra Mist > (Coke – Pepsi) * 6

  1. Peter says:

    I’m a diet soda drinker myself, not wanting all the calories from the real stuff. There is a very definite difference between Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke, with the latter having a sort of “oily” consistency quite unlike the much crisper Diet Pepsi. Diet Sierra Mist doesn’t taste bad but has a tendency to lose its carbonation too quickly.

  2. trumwill says:

    The difference between Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi is indeed large. I know a lot of people that really like one but hate the other whereas with standard Coke and Pepsi it’s more of a preference. It also seems to me that the difference between diet soft drinks out of a can and a fountain is larger than the equivalent difference between a can and fountain HFCS soft drink.

  3. Webmaster says:

    The reason the companies all make a flavor-alike when the competitors do is precisely what you note about SoTech; there are “exclusivity” agreements everywhere, but the “exclusivity” agreements only hold so long as you produce a “competing product” as enforced by the Coke Nazi (shelf stocker).

    This became very strange when for a brief while at SoTech. Coke’s definition of a “competing product” became “it’s wet and you drink it”; they tried to run off a number of the wacky (but quite satisfying) bottled smoothie / fruit cocktail drinks, and even tried to run off milk sales from the inconvenience stores. Eventually, they were told they couldn’t pull that and that they had to have a reasonable competing product, but not before they actually threatened to sue because the campus has Smoothie King franchise stores that were “cutting into soft drink sales.”

    Every couple years, there’s a rumbling of Coke trying to buy up a milk distributor or two, to squeeze ‘their piece’ of dairy sales out of anyone with an exclusivity agreement.

  4. trumwill says:

    I remember the flap about milk now that you mention it, but I don’t think that Coca-Cola needed Surge to prevent Mountain Dew from being sold, nor would Pepsi need Sierra Mist to prevent Sprite from being sold in a similar arrangement. Pepsi and Sprite are competing products in a way that milk and Coca-Cola aren’t. On the other hand, having a wider range of drinks does make a university or venue more likely to enter an exclusive agreement. But I think that’s minor compared to the other motivation: restaurants and soda machines.

    Having Sierra Mist allows Pepsi to cut 7-up out of the process when they supply soda fountains to restaurants. Prior to Sierra Mist, they could always strike a deal with 7-up or someone else to try to compensate for the hole in their product line, but 7-up would have not-inconsiderable leverage. With Sierra Mist, they don’t have that leverage. The same thing goes for Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper. Coca-Cola can and does offer Dr Pepper with their fountains (as does Pepsi), but if a restaurant doesn’t care they can just use Mr Pibb or if they can use the threat of Mr Pibb if Dr Pepper holds out. These products make them less vulnerable and makes cooperation with competitors less necessary. That’s definitely a good thing, business-wise.

    -{This comment was modified by its author}-

  5. Julie says:

    The original Sundrop is the best. I grew up on this and the only close comparison is somewhat Mountain Dew. Sundrop used real cane sugar and the zest of real lemons and limes. I would keep cases of it under my bed in college. It is the best cure for a hangover!

  6. Charles Eldredge says:

    I have to chime in on the Sierra Mist. I hate it. With 7-up missing I don’t have any good option if Pepsi products are being served. Sierra Mist tastes like a weak Fresca…that stuff was really awful! Pepsi wake up and give us a decent lemon/lime alternative. Currently my favorite lemon/lime is the Publix grocery store brand…..I like it better than Sprite!

  7. trumwill says:

    Preach it, brother!h

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