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16 January 2024

Pepsi beats Coke in Consumer NZ’s blind taste test

A panel of Consumer NZ staff that blind taste tested nine brands of cola found Pepsi came out on top – despite nearly all participants stating Coca-Cola as their preferred brand of choice.

“Pepsi was the best tasting cola according to our panel, who described it as the real deal, noting its familiarity and malty flavour,” said Ruairi O’Shea, investigative writer at Consumer.

Before the taste test, participants were asked about their favourite cola drink. Nine out of 11 participants said they preferred Coca-Cola or a variation like Diet Coke or Cherry Coke. Only two people said that Pepsi was their preferred choice.

“Four panellists even mistook Pepsi for Coca-Cola, with fizzy drink fans saying, ‘it tastes how cola should’,” said O’Shea.

Colas from best to worst

Pepsi took the top spot, due to its sweet taste, and mysteriously, its likeness to Coca-Cola.

“The same participants whose preferred brand was Coca-Cola described Pepsi as ‘Coca-Cola-esque‘. Someone also confidently noted ‘you can’t beat a classic’.”

Also beating Coca-Cola was runner-up Royal Crown Draft, enjoyed for its sophisticated flavour that included “hints of coffee” and a “lovely sweetness”.

“While other colas were criticized for not living up to their expectations of cola, Royal Crown Draft was praised for its distinctness. If you’re looking for a rich, unique cola – Royal Crown Draft could be for you.”

Coca-Cola came in at third place, with participants appreciating its sugary flavour and freshness.

“After the test, we asked participants which brand of cola they would buy for their home and the top three brands scored equal points.

“Yet again, our results show how effective branding can be in determining your preference for a particular product.”

The best value cola

Countdown Cola was not only the cheapest cola in Consumer’s taste test by far, but it landed fourth place, making it the best value cola tested.

“Compared to the next two cheapest colas the panel tested – Pepsi and Foxton Fizz – Countdown Cola was still three times cheaper.

“Countdown Cola was described as having a ‘great all-round taste and sweetness’. One tester even specifically noted there wasn’t much of a taste difference between Countdown Cola and sample B (Coca-Cola).

“Countdown’s home-brand clearly offers great value for money.”

Marketing that falls flat

Charlies Honest Cola boasts its “honest” ingredients, and Karma Cola is described as an organic cola drink that “does good”. When it came to taste, however, these brands scored sixth and seventh place, respectively.

“On average, the colas in our tasting contain 9.9 grams of sugar per 100ml. Charlie’s Honest Cola has 8.5 grams of sugar per 100ml, while Karma Cola has 9.6 grams per 100ml.

“After the testing session, some staff were noticeably energized only to experience a sugar-crash hours later.

“Our advice is to be mindful of marketing slogans like ‘honest’ or ‘organic’ – these drinks still have a very high sugar content. Fizzy drinks should be an occasional treat, and always consumed in moderation.”

Find out the full results for best and worst colas, as ranked by Consumer.

Notes to editors:

Prices for each cola are based on the recommended retail price of colas bought in Wellington on 18 December 2023.

About our survey: Our panel of 11 Consumer NZ staff blind taste tested nine colas across various brands and price points. Participants filled out a survey as they tasted the colas.

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