Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Friday, August 12, 2011

Creativity or Desperation?

I've really got to hand it to Pepsi. Unfortunately, I'm not sure exactly what "it" is that I should hand them. I'm not sure about back home in the USA, but here in Japan they keep coming up with interesting (weird?), new, flavored versions of their cola. Over the past several years, these have included:
  • Ice Cucumber - The flavor was apparently modeled after the iced cucumbers that are a popular summer treat here, particularly in the Kansai region (Kyoto, Nara, Osaka). Poured over lots of ice, it could actually be strangely refreshing on a hot day. However, drunk straight out of the bottle, especially if only slightly cooled, well...let's just say getting rid of that lingering aftertaste could be a chore. Nevertheless, I continued to buy it for the entire three-week period it was available.
  • Shiso - Shiso is a Japanese herb that is a member of the mint family. It is used to flavor a number of different dishes and condiments including sushi and aojiso dressing. Shiso Pepsi really did taste like it. Mint lover that I am, I actually liked it and drank it frequently, though I saw it make other gaijin gag. It was on the market for about a month.
  • Baobab Pepsi - I'm not sure what to say about this one. The label showed a picture of a baobab tree and animals in an African style. The cola itself was a golden color and had a fruity taste which I assume was modeled after the "monkey bread" fruit of the baobab tree. It was actually pretty good, if a bit sugary like an artificial fruit punch. It's hard to say how long it was sold; it was only widely available for a few months, but one store continued to sell it for the better part of a year. I bought it from time to time.
  • Mont Blanc - The flavor was clearly modeled after the rich dessert of the same name, which is based on chestnuts. I tried very hard to like Mont Blanc Pepsi, which was supposed to have a latte-like flavor, but I just couldn't bring myself to drink it. It just overwhelms the taste buds and leaves them begging for mercy. (Then again, I only drank it while eating, which was probably not a good idea.) Not surprisingly, it was only on the market for a few weeks.
  • Pepsi Dry - Now here was an interesting concept: a cola of reduced sweetness for the stated purpose of giving it a more naturally coffee-like flavor. (Strangely, the #1 ingredient is still sugar...) I actually think it's a good idea, and I like it. I drink it from time to time. It has been on the market for a couple of months now, though it's mainly found only in drugstores and certain convenience store chains.
  • Energy Cola - This is a new one that came out last month. It is exactly what the name implies: Pepsi with added vitamins, proteins, and royal jelly plus stimulants beyond the normal caffeine load. It tastes like (wait for it...) a cross between Pepsi cola and those vitamin drinks that have long been a staple of Japanese life. It comes in a small can that is (wait for it...) the same size as that of Red Bull. It is only sold by certain store chains, but there have been some PR campaigns for it. At any rate, I do drink it on occasion...which is strange, since I have thus far avoided Red Bull like the plague.
  • Caribbean Gold - This one just hit store shelves a few days ago. Not surprisingly, its label has a tropical theme. It is indeed a golden color. Its flavor is based on the white sapote fruit, but to me it tastes (and looks) suspiciously similar to the Baobab cola I mentioned above. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Again, it's good if you're in the mood for something fruity in a sugary kind of way.
There have been others, too. So why does Pepsi keep coming out with all these weird and often short-lived varieties? Well, although Pepsi competes well with Coca Cola in the US and elsewhere in the world, here in Japan it is still a hill to Coke's mountain. A lot of Japanese will tell you they've never tried Pepsi and have no reason to, or have but don't see any need to drink it again. The reason is that Japanese society has always been very ordered; everything here has tended to be based on established "if - then" statements, and in the minds of most people here, if it's cola, then it's Coke. Thus, you could say that Pepsi really has nothing to lose by trying out all kinds of inventive ideas to get the public's attention. It also provides a healthy bit of variety...even if it doesn't always taste so good.



  • I am not much of a pop drinker, but the Pepsi Dry idea sounds pretty interesting. I would be worried about whether Baobabs were used in that drink (rather than tasty chemical esters which I hope is the case).

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 10:44 AM  

  • I drink a lot of Pepsi - have a can open right now, actually!

    They have stayed safe here in the UK, just the normal stuff and a couple of low calorie versions. We did have Orange Coke a while back - that was good!

    By Blogger Rock Chef, at 5:03 PM  

  • Don
    Well, the bottle said that it contained small quantities of real juice, so maybe monkey bread (the fruit of the baobab) was used. More than likely, however, as with most popular fruit juices, it was probably a blend of more ordinary fruit juices intended to approximate the taste.

    Rock Chef
    Pepsi's not always easy to find here. Certain hypermarket and drugstore chains stock it, but most of the time all you can find is "Pepsi Next", which is the 0 calorie, 0 caffeine (0 reason to drink) type.

    Flavored Coke has been here off and on, too. Vanilla Coke was available for a number of years. Then Cherry Coke (a staple in the US) was here for a while. Now Cherry Coke can only be found in import markets, and Vanilla Coke is just plain gone. No Orange Coke, though...but that does sound good.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 7:43 PM  

  • Do you get all the flavored Mountain Dews (also a Pepsi product)? Code Red, Distortion, White-Out, Voltage, Revolution, Supernova, Typhoon, LiveWire, Baja Blast, Throwback, to name a few.

    Acerola Cola?

    By Blogger DewKid, at 6:24 AM  

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