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Earlier this month, news broke that Pepsi was discontinuing Sierra Mist. The soft drink giant wanted to introduce a new lemon lime soda to better compete with Sprite, the Coca-Cola Company’s wildly popular lemon lime beverage.
To date myself, I remember when Sierra Mist didn’t even exist. In fact, I remember its predecessor—Slice. I guess it comes as little surprise that Pepsi’s latest lemon lime incarnation would also begin with an “S.” Always a sucker for new sodas, I would be lying if I said that Starry didn’t intrigue me.
To satisfy my curiosity, I purchased a 2-liter of Starry on Friday evening from Walmart. But I didn’t stop there. In order to honor my personal nerdiness and to provide something fun for my family to do, I also grabbed 2-liter bottles of Sprite and 7UP. We were going to conduct a taste test…
The next day, I surprised Sloan by telling her that she would get to sample THREE different sodas. I explained how it would work and convinced Sidney to participate too.
Out of the sight of my wife and daughter, I prepared the cups of different lemon lime sodas. I assigned a number (between 1-3) to each beverage and then invited Sloan over to the kitchen table to sample. Sid had a more bougie experience as I brought the samples to her as she sat on the couch. After all, it was her birthday.
Sloan sampled the sodas and had a clear consensus on her preference: she identified newcomer on the block, Starry, as her overall favorite. Sprite was her runner up and 7UP finished in last place. Sidney had a completely different take as her taste buds caused her to trend in the opposite direction. She rated the sodas in the following order: 7UP-Sprite-Starry.
It looked like I was going to have to settle the tie. Sidney set up the experiment for me and my preferences matched that exactly of my daughter. I chose Starry-Sprite-7UP.
As we convened to discuss our varying results, we realized something. Our palates weren’t necessarily reporting differently on how the sodas tasted but rather our personal preferences were favoring certain tastes.
For example, Starry is definitely sweeter than its competitors. This is mostly pronounced in the aftertaste. Once you swig it back, a strong kick of lemon lime artificial goodness hits. For Sloan and I, we welcome the unique taste that resembles what a lime Mr. Sketch scented marker smells like. For Sid? Not as much. She prefers a crisper taste with less pronounced flavoring, much like what 7UP delivers.
So I think we can conclude that Pepsi created a lemon lime product that distinguishes itself from other lemon lime sodas. Now we have to see how people feel about that distinction. It will no doubt be a mixed bag (as evidenced by the three of us) but if it trends in the direction that Pepsi hopes it will, there is a chance that Starry could close the gap on Sprite’s stranglehold of the lemon lime soda market. Bottoms up. Don’t Blink.