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View Full Version : Why don't Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi taste like Coke or Pepsi?


jayjay
04-07-2008, 11:03 AM
Diet Mt. Dew tastes (within reasonable bounds) like Mt. Dew. Diet Dr. Pepper (plain) tastes almost exactly like Dr. Pepper. Diet root beer generally tastes like root beer. Diet Sprite and 7-Up taste like Sprite and 7-Up.

So why don't Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi taste like Coke and Pepsi? I wondered this when I saw Diet Coke with Splenda in the supermarket this weekend. Why Diet Coke with Splenda? Why not try to make a sugar-free product that tastes like real Coca-Cola? If you're going to add non-metabolizing sugar product to one of your soda lines, why not make it the soda line that actually has some sort of flavor instead of the blandest soft drink on the market?

Diet Coke tastes nothing like Coca-Cola. It's bland and blah. There's no flavor to speak of, other than the nubby nip of citric acid that's had it's teeth removed.

Diet Pepsi tastes like medicine. It's bitey and nasty and acidic without any of the good points of Pepsi's flavor. It's the Tab of the Pepsicola line.

So why do neither of the diet versions of the two largest-grossing soft drinks in the world taste anything like the real versions?

JSexton
04-07-2008, 11:07 AM
Coke Zero tastes a lot like Coke. My guess is that Diet Coke is popular enough that messing with the falvor would potentially lose as many existing customers as you'd gain.

Also, if you stop drinking regular soda and only drink diet, you get very accustomed to it, to the point where regular soda is sickeningly sweet to you. I used to drink a ton of regular Dew every day. I cut soda out of my routine for a year, then started drinking diet. Now I can't stand how sweet regular soda is, even though I used to love it. It's all a matter of what you're used to.

Sarahfeena
04-07-2008, 11:08 AM
For some reason, Diet Coke has a completely different forumla than regular Coke. Don't know if it's because aspertame has some flavor that doesn't work well in the regular Coke formula, or what. There is a product out now (I think it's Coke Zero) that uses the same formula as regular Coke, only with Splenda replacing the sugar (easier to do, I'd imagine, since Splenda IS sugar, treated with a chemical process of some kind). I have not tried it, but I understand it's much closer to the taste of regular Coke.

Not sure if Pepsi has the same thing going on, or not.

Monstera deliciosa
04-07-2008, 11:12 AM
Diet Mt. Dew tastes (within reasonable bounds) like Mt. Dew. Diet Dr. Pepper (plain) tastes almost exactly like Dr. Pepper. Diet root beer generally tastes like root beer. Diet Sprite and 7-Up taste like Sprite and 7-Up.

So why don't Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi taste like Coke and Pepsi? I wondered this when I saw Diet Coke with Splenda in the supermarket this weekend. Why Diet Coke with Splenda? Why not try to make a sugar-free product that tastes like real Coca-Cola? If you're going to add non-metabolizing sugar product to one of your soda lines, why not make it the soda line that actually has some sort of flavor instead of the blandest soft drink on the market?

Diet Coke tastes nothing like Coca-Cola. It's bland and blah. There's no flavor to speak of, other than the nubby nip of citric acid that's had it's teeth removed.

Diet Pepsi tastes like medicine. It's bitey and nasty and acidic without any of the good points of Pepsi's flavor. It's the Tab of the Pepsicola line.

So why do neither of the diet versions of the two largest-grossing soft drinks in the world taste anything like the real versions?

I have come to the conclusion that colas are unique in that a high percentage of their flavor, not just their sweetness, comes from sugar (or HFC). Other sodas have strong flavors (lemon/lime, ginger, orange or what have you) to balance them out.

Artificial sweeteners can reproduce the sweetness, but not the flavor or mouth-feel of actual sugars.

jayjay
04-07-2008, 11:13 AM
For some reason, Diet Coke has a completely different forumla than regular Coke. Don't know if it's because aspertame has some flavor that doesn't work well in the regular Coke formula, or what. There is a product out now (I think it's Coke Zero) that uses the same formula as regular Coke, only with Splenda replacing the sugar (easier to do, I'd imagine, since Splenda IS sugar, treated with a chemical process of some kind). I have not tried it, but I understand it's much closer to the taste of regular Coke.

Not sure if Pepsi has the same thing going on, or not.

While Coke Zero is CLOSE to original Coca Cola flavor, it's not that close. Probably if I drank it more regularly, I'd become accustomed to it being almost Coke...

Nametag
04-07-2008, 11:19 AM
Cola and diet cola seem to have entirely different markets. Diet colas aren't supposed to taste like regular colas, and those who buy diet colas seldom buy full-on-sugar-rush cola, and vice-versa. The taste of Diet Coke actually does better in blind taste tests than Coca-Cola, but Coca-Cola drinkers rose up in arms when they changed the formula to comply. (Remember "New Coke"? Know why the can says "Coca-Cola Classic? Yeah -- that.)

Sarahfeena
04-07-2008, 11:24 AM
While Coke Zero is CLOSE to original Coca Cola flavor, it's not that close. Probably if I drank it more regularly, I'd become accustomed to it being almost Coke... I'm a Coca-Cola Classic drinker, and I do not doubt you for one minute that Coke Zero doesn't taste the same/as good. But, my understanding is that this is a function of the type of sweetener, and not a difference in the formula.

jayjay
04-07-2008, 11:27 AM
I'm just frustrated because I'm a diet cola drinker by necessity (Type II Diabetes), rather than choice, and finding a decent diet cola that tastes like the real thing is nearly impossible. On the other hand, I should try to keep the caffeine levels down, too, so I shouldn't even be having diet colas (or Diet Mt. Dew, for that matter)...

I hate being metabolically challenged...

Bosstone
04-07-2008, 11:28 AM
I like Diet Pepsi. If they changed the formula to taste sweeter, I'd stop drinking it. Sugary drinks just don't go with a meal IMO.

supervenusfreak
04-07-2008, 11:28 AM
While Coke Zero is CLOSE to original Coca Cola flavor, it's not that close. Probably if I drank it more regularly, I'd become accustomed to it being almost Coke...

And if pigs grew wings they could fly...lol. :D

Seriously, of course they have different formulas. It's simple chemistry. Things react differently with different ingredients. I do find that non-cola products do taste more like their respective counterparts. That is part of the reason that I much prefer Sprite Zero and Diet 7-Up to other diet sodas.

ZenBeam
04-07-2008, 11:57 AM
Diet coke is really diet New Coke. Prior to Diet Coke, the diet Coke product was Tab, which used saccharin. I don't think they've ever made Tab with a different sweetener.

Based on the ads, I tried Coke Zero ("grandpa" can't even it's not the same Coke he's been drinking his whole life). Sigh. No, it doesn't taste like Classic Coke. It's not just the taste, it gives me a weird feeling in my stomach. I even tried mixing it half and half with Classic Coke, but it just didn't cut it.

It is surprising that with the different artificial sweeteners they have now, that even when they try to make it taste just the same as Classic Coke, they can't.

MaxTheVool
04-07-2008, 12:16 PM
I was a 3-can-a-day coke drinker for years. Now I'm a 3-can-a-day Coke Zero drinker, and almost almost almost as happy.

Otto
04-07-2008, 12:33 PM
Screw Diet Coke (unless it's the cherry or lime varieties). Go for Pibb Zero.

An Gadaí
04-07-2008, 12:53 PM
When I realised Diet Coke wasn't meant to taste like Coke I liked it more. As ZenBeam says Diet Coke's flavour is based on the flavour of the now defunct New Coke.

Student Driver
04-07-2008, 12:59 PM
Diet coke is really diet New Coke. Prior to Diet Coke, the diet Coke product was Tab, which used saccharin. I don't think they've ever made Tab with a different sweetener.


Looking online, there have been cyclamate/saccharine, saccharine, saccharine/sugar, and saccharine/aspartame blends for Tab over the years. The can sitting on my coffee table is the last formula, a combination of saccharine and aspartame. (This is ignoring the variety of Tab flavors... I remember Tab root beer, but from what I've seen online, there was a variety of Tab flavors that rivals the current plethora of Diet Rite flavors.)

Yeah, I'm a Tab drinker. And I'm a guy.

(In my defense, it's a good drink now, if you're accustomed to the artificial taste of diet sodas. Try it, if you regularly drink diet. I prefer it to Diet Coke, and wish it was available in vending machines.)

Sateryn76
04-07-2008, 01:05 PM
snip..
Diet Pepsi tastes like medicine.

Medicine for the soul. Diet Pepsi is the most perfect beverage invented*. I love it and drink it everyday, all the time...

* except for the tooth enamel issue and the bone density issue and the questions about aspertame :cool

Pixilated
04-07-2008, 01:11 PM
My pecking choice:
Dr Pepper
Coke
Dt Pepsi
Dt Coke
Pepsi

For some reason, I get really sick to my stomach when drinking diet drinks w/artificial sweetner. I miss my Dt Pepsi's! My ultimate fav was dt cream soda, but my tummy just cannot tolerate it anymore.

jayjay
04-07-2008, 01:15 PM
And if pigs grew wings they could fly...lol. :D

Hush, you!

Ice Cream Man
04-07-2008, 01:29 PM
Medicine for the soul. Diet Pepsi is the most perfect beverage invented*. I love it and drink it everyday, all the time...


My girlfriend drinks it all the time too. It's a crisis at our place when there's only 2 or 3 bottles.
One time about two years ago she was complaining of a two-day long headache... she finally figured out that she was having caffeine withdrawl...and diet pepsi is the only caffeine she consumes.

duality72
04-07-2008, 02:59 PM
Diet Dr. Pepper (plain) tastes almost exactly like Dr. Pepper.

Like hell it does.

JohnBckWLD
04-07-2008, 03:12 PM
Yeah, I'm a Tab drinker. And I'm a guy.Tab was better prior to the nutra-sweet blend reformulation in the mid 80s.

I had a 20 can a day Tab habit (addiction) that I finally kicked a year ago when I switched to Diet Coke With Splenda. Unfortunately, Coca-Cola pulled the plug about 6 months ago, and now drink Pepsi One.

jacquilynne
04-07-2008, 03:15 PM
To my mind, Diet Pepsi tastes much like regular coke. Diet Coke, on the other hand, tastes like ass. Ass and chemicals. Coke Zero tastes like Diet Pepsi, that is, kinda like regular Coke, but with less aspartame headaches.

Thus my 2 pack a week Diet Pepsi habit became a 3 pack a week Coke Zero habit.

Frylock
04-07-2008, 03:18 PM
For some reason, Diet Coke has a completely different forumla than regular Coke. Don't know if it's because aspertame has some flavor that doesn't work well in the regular Coke formula, or what. There is a product out now (I think it's Coke Zero) that uses the same formula as regular Coke, only with Splenda replacing the sugar (easier to do, I'd imagine, since Splenda IS sugar, treated with a chemical process of some kind). I have not tried it, but I understand it's much closer to the taste of regular Coke.

Not sure if Pepsi has the same thing going on, or not.

Coke Zero uses aspartame, not splenda.

And it does taste very much like regular Coke.

-FrL-

pulykamell
04-07-2008, 03:26 PM
Coke Zero uses aspartame, not splenda.

And it does taste very much like regular Coke.

-FrL-

To be complete, Coke Zero uses aspartame and Ace K, and the two sweeteners kinda balance out each other's weak points. And I agree that Coke Zero tastes pretty darn close to regular Coke.

Alan Smithee
04-07-2008, 03:28 PM
I agree that Diet Pepsi tastes much more like Coke than Diet Coke does. I also think Diet Coke tastes slightly more like Pepsi than like Coke, but it doesn't taste that much like either of them.

It's been a couple of years since I've had a Tab, but I do think it tastes more like Coke than Diet Coke does. Coke Zero definitely tastes more like regular Coke, but not quite because of the sweetner. I've gotten used to Diet Coke having that artificial sweetner taste, but I find I notice it much more in Coke Zero since I expect the flavor of Coke to come with the HFC (or sugar when I can get it) taste and feel.

Miss Purl McKnittington
04-07-2008, 04:09 PM
Like hell it does.
Dude, it does. If I order diet Dr. Pepper in a restaurant, and get regular Dr. Pepper by mistake, I can't really tell the difference. I have to figure out which it is by the texture and mouthfeel alone, which is a lot harder than you might think. I usually just send the glass back to get diet for sure.

I'm a diabetic, not a dick, by the way.

AlmondJoy
04-07-2008, 04:17 PM
I am glad it tastes different, I can't stand regular soda

Bearflag70
04-07-2008, 05:09 PM
Some sodas have expiration dates on them. Diet Pepsi is one of them. I normally enjoy Diet Pepsi.

I sometimes wondered if those dates were just a ploy to get you to throw out "old" sodas and buy new ones. I drank a few sips of some truly foul Diet Pepsi out of a can once only to discover it was expired by about 3 months.

Foul. Foul. Nasty. Foul. The dates are real.

I can't drink regular sodas too much now that I've switched to diet. They're just too sweet and sugary.

fiddlesticks
04-07-2008, 05:34 PM
Old thread post about this (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=6283229&postcount=14).

When the Coke scientists were making Diet Coke back in the 80s they couldn't recreate the taste of Coke in a drink with artificial sweeteners. So they decided to create a completely new Coke branded beverage. 20 years on and untold millions of Coke R&D dollars has finally gifted us with Coke Zero...the taste of Coke without the sugar.

duality72
04-07-2008, 05:36 PM
I'm a diabetic, not a dick, by the way.

Of that I have no doubt, but I'm still going to have to disagree with you, though if you're considering texture and mouthfeel as separate from taste, we might just be splitting hairs. The taste of regular Dr. Pepper dissipates a few seconds after swallowing, while the Diet version leaves behind a bad (to me) aftertaste.

Miss Purl McKnittington
04-07-2008, 06:30 PM
I'm so used to the aftertaste of diet sodas that I can't taste it anymore, which is probably why I have such a hard time telling the two apart.

An Gadaí
04-07-2008, 08:34 PM
Diet colas seem to fizz alot more than normal ones. Whazzatallabout?

MilTan
04-07-2008, 10:35 PM
Old thread post about this (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=6283229&postcount=14).

When the Coke scientists were making Diet Coke back in the 80s they couldn't recreate the taste of Coke in a drink with artificial sweeteners. So they decided to create a completely new Coke branded beverage. 20 years on and untold millions of Coke R&D dollars has finally gifted us with Coke Zero...the taste of Coke without the sugar.

I'm pretty sure the key advance was the approval of acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) for human consumption. Both Coke's and Pepsi's newest diet products (Coke Zero and Pepsi One, respectively) use a combination of Ace-K and aspartame.

By the way, it's not that Diet Coke is Diet New Coke. New Coke was "un-Dieted" Diet Coke. (http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/newcoke.asp)

Lakai
04-07-2008, 10:46 PM
Snoops (http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/newcoke.asp) writes that Coca-Cola created Diet Coke without trying to make it taste like the original Coke. I don't know if it's because they couldn't or because they wanted it that way. Diet Coke then became the #4 soft drink of America, behind Coke, Pepsi and Seven-Up.

Since it was so popular, it made little sense to change it.

Coke Zero is the diet product that the company pretends tastes like Coke Classic.

ETA: Crap! I was so close.

stanger
04-07-2008, 11:09 PM
Back in the mid 1960's, when Tab first came out, it had cyclamates in it for sweetening. To the best of my recollection, it tasted virtually the same as original Coca-Cola. My family would almost interchangably go between Coke and Tab because they were so similar.

Cyclamates were a good artificial sweetener. Too bad they were deemed unsafe.

Coke Zero is pretty close to the taste of the current Coke Classic, but of course, Coke Classic is only partially like the Coke of my youth. I still have to stop by Sams Club occasionally and pick up a case of Mexican Coke to remind myself what real Coke used to taste like.

newcrasher
04-07-2008, 11:09 PM
Diet Rite Cola is far and away the best diet cola. Made with Splenda.

Pushkin
04-08-2008, 04:20 AM
Wow, diet colas are a sub-culture all to themselves.

I tried one, once, in the 80s, never again.

si_blakely
04-08-2008, 05:28 AM
Those of us in the rest of the world can choose to drink Pepsi Max - another diet cola (but not the same formula as Pepsi One or Diet Pepsi, apparently).

My drink of choice is Coke Zero, followed by Vanilla Diet Coke (if it is available), then Pepsi Max, then Diet Coke. I no longer like full-fat Coke/Pepsi at all.

Si

Student Driver
04-08-2008, 07:18 AM
Diet colas seem to fizz alot more than normal ones. Whazzatallabout?

Diet Coke, yeah, but I find I can't buy a bottle or can of Diet Pepsi and have it stay fizzy for more than a few minutes. That stuff goes flat quickly. (Oddly, though, Diet Pepsi Max stays fizzy.)

Bosstone
04-08-2008, 08:30 AM
That stuff goes flat quickly.Call me loony, but I find Diet Pepsi actually tastes best just after it starts to go flat. Too long and it's just as nasty as any other flat soda, but for a while it actually tastes pretty darn good.

Ephemera
04-08-2008, 05:20 PM
Those of us in the rest of the world can choose to drink Pepsi Max - another diet cola (but not the same formula as Pepsi One or Diet Pepsi, apparently).

My drink of choice is Coke Zero, followed by Vanilla Diet Coke (if it is available), then Pepsi Max, then Diet Coke. I no longer like full-fat Coke/Pepsi at all.

Si

Pepsi Max is available here as well. I drink it if Pepsis are on sale but otherwise prefer Coke Zero.

Alan Smithee
04-09-2008, 09:50 AM
Wow, diet colas are a sub-culture all to themselves.

I tried one, once, in the 80s, never again.
For how long?

jayjay
04-09-2008, 09:51 AM
For how long?

I heard it was 10 minutes, but you have to factor in inflation, too...

TroubleAgain
04-09-2008, 12:20 PM
I stopped drinking regular sodas, and the only diet ones I can stand are Coke Zero, Diet Dr. Pepper, and (occasionally, just for a change) Diet Mt. Dew. To me, they taste the most like "regular" sodas. Oh, and once in a while I can drink Diet Coke With Lime.

chrissysissystar
04-09-2008, 01:47 PM
TaB, if I'm given a choice. There's only one place in town that I've been able to consistently find it so I've been known to stockpile it in the back of my Tribute.

Diet Coke with Lime is quite tasty but the cherry and vanilla versions are way too strong. Diet Coke with Lemon always tastes like the can so no thanks to that.

I was a big Mountain Dew drinker in my late 20's (to the point of messing up my sleep patterns). The taste of the diet version just grosses me out. It's just not the same.

Diet Pepsi Max is slowly winning me over. I don't buy it as a first choice but if it's there and there are no Coke versions available, I don't pout about it.

TBG
04-12-2008, 04:09 AM
I'm pretty sure the key advance was the approval of acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) for human consumption. Both Coke's and Pepsi's newest diet products (Coke Zero and Pepsi One, respectively) use a combination of Ace-K and aspartame.
That's what Coke Zero uses, and may be what Pepsi One originally used, but Pepsi One at some point switched to Splenda. I used to like Pepsi One a lot (and still do like Coke Zero) but the Splenda Pepsi One is just barely drinkable, IMO. Still better than Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke, though.

Interestingly, if they add some extra flavoring to Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, like cherry, or lime, or vanilla, I usually like those variants. It's just the base versions I don't like.

Other diet pops, from 7-Up to Dr Pepper, I like those just fine, but I would never confuse them with the non-diet version.

Pushkin
04-12-2008, 07:28 AM
I tried Coke-Zero today and found it strangely tolerable, I may switch. It doesn't have the sickly taste of Diet Coke or any Pepsi derivative.

jayjay
04-12-2008, 08:24 AM
Interestingly, if they add some extra flavoring to Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, like cherry, or lime, or vanilla, I usually like those variants. It's just the base versions I don't like.

Yeah, I actually just remembered yesterday that Diet Pepsi Jazz (the Cherry/Vanilla and Caramel Cream) flavors I can stand.

gaffa
04-12-2008, 11:00 AM
I'm one of those people who are very sensitive to the aspartame aftertaste. To me it tastes like vinyl and drinking most diet sodas tastes like I'm licking it off a car seat. But Pepsi One with Splenda is the only diet soda that tastes good to me. It doesn't taste exactly like regular Pepsi, but it's close enough that I could drink one right after a regular Pepsi without having to totally re-calibrate my taste buds in the way most diet soda drinkers have to.

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