My 1998 Meandering Essay on Coca-Cola

Here’s another piece from the Scalzi.com archives, this one from waaay back in the day: 1998. Yes, it was one of the very first things I put up on the site. In it I discuss:

I’m in a mixed marriage: I drink Coke and my wife drinks Pepsi.

Normally, this isn’t much of an issue; since I’m the main soda drinker in the house, Krissy (that’d be my wife), tends to buy Coke and then drinks it when she has a cola (we stock other, non-cola sodas as well, which are not an issue). Every so often, however, she gets a little jumpy. “I have to have a Pepsi,” she declares, with a sort of urgency. It’s almost as if without an occasional infusion of the stuff, she’ll lose her secret powers or something — not unlike Popeye and his spinach, except less healthy (and, of course, Krissy looks nothing like Popeye, with his freakish forearms and utter lack of chin). What her need for Pepsi means, however, is that I have to get up, trudge over to the local supermarket, grab one of those 20-ounce bottles, and then head back to the homestead. It’s a small price to pay for domestic felicity.

Why don’t we just keep a six-pack of Pepsi in the fridge? Hush.

The occasional forced purchase of Pepsi caused me to reflect on the whole cola schism. By and large, people really do seem to have a preference for either Coke or Pepsi, often to the exclusion of the other. I, for example, will not drink Pepsi if can avoid it without effort. If I’m in a store and it’s selling Coke at full price and Pepsi on sale, I’ll buy the Coke. If I’m at a restaurant and I order a Coke, and they ask “Is Pepsi all right?” it’s 50/50 that I’ll switch the drink to another soda flavor. It’s nothing against Pepsi, per se — I don’t irrationally hate the product or the company, and in fact, prefer some Pepsi products over Coke products (in particular I prefer Mountain Dew over Coke’s somewhat vile entry into the heavily caffinated citrus drink market, called Surge). But when I want a cola, I want a Coke, period. It’s the sort of brand identification that companies dream of.

Why? Well, foremost, I enjoy the taste, which is mellow and sweet without being too sweet (“too sweet” being defined as sweet enough to make one’s back teeth throb out a cavity warning). It’s the fundamental cola taste experience, and everyone knows it — even, I suspect, the folks at Pepsi, whose own cola formulation has always struck me as trying too hard: too tangy, too sweet, too carbonated. Coke meets your taste buds like an old friend. Pepsi, on the other hand, grabs on to them like a loudmouth at a party: Sure, he’s real friendly, but you still want to get away from him sooner than later. In terms of the total cola experience, in fact, I’d rank Pepsi third among the national brands, the #2 experience being, of course, RC Cola. It’s the cola that Coke drinkers can, in a pinch, drink without feeling guilty about — the Anglican Church to Coke’s Catholic, close enough in the general sense that you can get over the few technical differences.

Also, I think there really is something to how Coke positions itself. One hates to admit that one is influenced by corporate branding — it means that those damned advertisers actually managed to do their job — but what can you say. It works. Since Coke is the market leader, it doesn’t spend any time as far as I can see banging on Pepsi or other brands; its ads stick to their knitting, which is making sure that people feel that Coke is part of everyday life — and at some point during your day, you’re probably going to have a Coke. It’s inevitable. And hey — that’s okay. That’s as it should be, in fact. I don’t know that I would call Coke’s ads soft sells (after all, they brand the product literally up the wazoo), but I don’t find the advertising utterly annoying.

Which brings us back to Pepsi. Pepsi is eternally positioning itself as the outsider — “Pepsi Generation,” “Generation Next,” so on and so forth. Always young, always fun, always mildly rebellious, yadda yadda yadda. Since one goes in knowing that Pepsi is a multibillion-dollar corporation, I’ve always found the rebellion angle amusing (and not just in Pepsi’s case — if you’re a company that’s big enough to advertise your wares every single day on national networks, you’ve gotten just a bit beyond being the rebel’s choice, now, haven’t you?). Being a rebel doesn’t really work for me — most of what is positioned as being a rebel is actually not rebellion, merely sullenness and inarticulateness. And really, I’m just too bourgeois for that at this point in my life. The only really rebellious national ad campaign that I can think of off the top of my head is the old Bennetton campaigns, which featured things like dying AIDS patients and third world dumps and declared them as part of their world. I really don’t expect Pepsi to follow that example — it’s just not a rebel corporation.

Besides, Pepsi can’t seem to advertise itself without bringing up the point that Coke exists, and is the better-selling brand. As far as I can remember, Pepsi has been putting itself in opposition to Coke — starting with the “Pepsi Challenge” in the 70s, up to today’s very amusing commercials that feature the Coke delivery guy sneaking cans of Pepsi for himself. Sure, it gets the Pepsi brand out there, but it also gives free exposure to Coke. On the other hand, I can’t think of a single Coke ad that even acknowledges that Pepsi exists. Now, on the average, I find Pepsi ads more interesting than Coke ads — they’re generally funnier (and certainly more frenetic), but to the extent that a Cola war exists in the public consciousness, it exists because Pepsi keeps on telling people about it (and that they’re on the underdog side). As far as Coke ads are concerned, not only is the war over, there never was a war to begin with. Pepsi might think about not giving Coke the free ride.

Finally, I’m immune to celebrity spokespeople. I’m real happy for Cindy Crawford that she drinks Pepsi and all, but what does that do for me? If I drink Pepsi, it doesn’t mean that Cindy is going to be my friend. I won’t get to spend special moments with Cindy, sharing my hopes and dreams with the Supermodel of the Universe as we guzzle our carbonated beverages. I certainly won’t get to sleep with Cindy, which is ultimately the image Pepsi wants you to have running around in your mind. Of course, sleeping with Cindy Crawford wouldn’t make me want to drink Pepsi, anyway. I already sleep with someone who drinks Pepsi, after all. It hasn’t caused me to convert (Yes, Coke has their celebs — I don’t want to sleep with them, either).

Sorry about spewing on advertising, but that’s just me. I just don’t get worked up over brands that try too hard to make try their product because it’s cool. I’m married. I’m balding. I’m of average looks. I’m 28 and way beyond the days where I worried about making the scene. I’m just not cool. I never was cool. It’s highly unlikely that I will ever become cool at this late date in my life. I don’t give a damn about being cool. I don’t have the time for it, and I certainly don’t have the money for it (well, actually, I do, but I don’t want to spend it that way). I understand that Pepsi is trying to graft brand identification onto the youngsters early so that when they get old enough to do the shopping, they’ll pick up Pepsi rather than Coke. Meanwhile, however, Coke is going after the people who are already doing the shopping, and the kids get what they get. In the long run, that seems to me the smarter way to do things for a product like this. It ain’t Gameboy, you know.

Coke, of course, learned the hard way that the vast majority of Coke drinkers don’t want Coke to be cool, they want it to be Coke. In the mid 80s, some idiots over at Coca-Cola headquarters decided what they needed to do was reformulate Coke to give it a sweeter, zingier taste (“more like Pepsi,” some folks noted) and then do away with the old Coke. Everyone knows what happened then — people just about rioted. In the end, of course, the company brought back Coke (now “Coca-Cola Classic”) and the “new” Coke, now labeled “Coke II,” has been relegated for the most part to the dusty soda cooler of history. I came across a store selling it in Chicago when I was there recently, and thought about buying a bottle of the stuff — not to drink, but just because I hadn’t seen it in years.

What’s interesting about this fairly singular event in product marketing history is it proved that Coca-Cola, the soda, is bigger than the company that makes it — it truly is a fundamental part of Americana. In a way, I think the consumer response to the reformulation was sort of sweet. Imagine Coca-Cola as the worried spouse who fears that they are not as attractive as they used to be, so they try a daffy new haircut or maybe a pair of outrageous pants. The American consumer is the spouse who reassures them that, yes, they really are just as attractive as they used to be. The pants go to Goodwill. The hair grows out. Everything goes on more or less as before, with only a couple of pictures as reminders of that silly, zany, foolish time.

Now, would people go as nuts if Pepsi reformulated? I doubt it. It’s just not the same thing. It’s not, shall we say, the real thing.

55 Comments on “My 1998 Meandering Essay on Coca-Cola”

  1. I think what I find most interesting about this post is the huge difference the move to Moveable Type has made in your posting styles. I was around the site before the change (I was tracking down an old AOL humor article you wrote and found it here), and the change has been interesting. Very reminiscent of the reformulation mentioned in the above post with New Coke: I actually prefer the old posts better even if they were a week apart. They’re very observant and thought-provoking, which isn’t something that can always be done on a multi-post site updated on a daily basis. You’re still doing something right, though, because I’m still coming back for more.

    Also, your old AOL writings could be found via Keyword: Howdy!, right? Wow, the days before instant messenger on AOL…

  2. Damn, this post is flame-war bait if I ever saw one.
    Hey John, have you tried Coke Zero yet? I’m forcing myself to stick to diet sodas, and Coke Zero has become my drink of choice when I need a soda fix. Doesn’t taste nearly as good as regular Coke, but it sure doesn’t taste like a diet.

  3. And now they’re reformulated Surge and renamed it Vault. Calling it “the soda that kicks like an energy drink” is mildly humourous, since Mountain Dew’s offshoot “MDX” is “the energy drink that drinks like a soda!”

    Oh, and way back when, they did once mention in an ad that “the other guy” exists — recall the “New Coke” ads with “Max Headroom”?

  4. Pepsi is too sweet for making alcoholic mixed drinks. So when I do drink soda (not often), it’s Coke.

  5. I was in a mixed-faith household when I was married to my ex. We kept both Coke and Pepsi in the fridge.

  6. I’ll drink either. I used to prefer Pepsi over Coke, now I tend to pick up Coke first, but I’ll get Pepsi now and then for a change.
    One thing, though: If I’m getting a cold can or bottle, I’ll always get Coke. Pepsi doesn’t do so well chilled.

  7. I’m not generally a big soda drinker, though I do get hardcore Fresca jones, and occasional birch/ginger/root beer cravings… but I have to say, American cola is *all* ass.

    Canadian cola is the Real Thing. You see, they still use cane sugar in the soda sold up there. Which means it tastes like the soda of my childhood.

    And when I absolutely positively have to have that ice-cold caffeine fix, it’s Doctor Pepper for me. Even though American Doctor Pepper is ass. (see above.)

  8. The “Real Thing”? Not since they substituted corn syrup for sugar. Jolt Cola was sort of a last hurrah that way — an acceptable substitute for the original Coca-Cola.

    I tell you, you young’uns don’t know what you’re missing when it comes to drinking soda. I’m talking about the total experience now. I still get all dreamy when I think about travelling around the South and Southwest back in the 50’s and 60’s, before most places were air-conditioned. Maybe you’ve seen the kind of old cooler that many stores and gas stations sold sodas out of — a bulky refrigerated box with a hinged cover, filled to the brim with icy water and glass bottles, with a bottle opener mounted on the side somewhere.

    http://www.gardenofspeedin.com/products.asp?detail=617&sub=23

    http://www.boomersamusements.com/gallery/boomers_classic_soda_machine_gal.htm

    http://gameroomantiques.com/kdSodaChestA.htm

    On a hot day, just reaching your arm down into the deliciously cold water was amazing. Then, usually, rummaging around until your fingers started to ache from the cold, the bottles rolling around each other — finding the type of drink you were after as much by touch as by sight (each brand of soda came in a distinctive bottle) — and that was nice too, fingering the different shapes, the ridged or dimpled surfaces, with rounded or angular waists…. and then popping off the cork-lined metal cap (that lovely sound) and pressing your lips against the gently roughened mouth of the bottle (they were re-used, not just recycled). Oh, it was a sensual act, yes indeed. Popping open a can ain’t even in the ballpark.

  9. I’ve heard it said (from psychology researchers) that if they reformulated Coke or Pepsi a little and didn’t tell anyone (as opposed to making a big advertising campaign about it)…most people wouldn’t notice.

    Also that in blind taste tests, with no advertising slogans around, even most of the avid Coke-drinkers prefer Pepsi.

    Fascinating stuff, that.

  10. “The “Real Thing”? Not since they substituted corn syrup for sugar.”

    Apparently Mexican and Canadian Coke is still made with sugar instead of corn syrup. (I have no idea why.) Depending on where you live, you might try to find a Hispanic grocery and see if they have it. (Which is what a friend of mine did after coming back from a vacation in Canada. :)

    Personally, I prefer Coke to Pepsi, but it’s because Pepsi’s too… damned… sweet.

    Kinda funny how down South, any carbonated beverage is referred to as a “coke.” Used to drive me nuts… “That’s not a Coke!”

  11. Nonny:

    “Apparently Mexican and Canadian Coke is still made with sugar instead of corn syrup. (I have no idea why.)”

    Possibly because (if I remember correctly) corn growers here in the US get very large subsidies, so corn syrup is cheaper than sugar. Elsewhere, sugar is probably cheaper, so that’s what gets used.

    Anna:

    “Also that in blind taste tests, with no advertising slogans around, even most of the avid Coke-drinkers prefer Pepsi.”

    Eh. The problem with the blind test tastes is that they don’t reflect the real world, in which you’re drinking 12 oz. of the stuff. I can very rarely finish a Pepsi, because it’s too sweet and acidic for me. I don’t have the same problem with a Coke.

    I can also very definitely tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, even when I’m not told; just ask any number of wait staff to whom I have said “This is Pepsi, isn’t it?” when I’ve ordered Coke. No, I don’t make them take it back. I just like to see if my mad cola skillz are still intact.

    However, the larger point is correct in that essentially what you’re doing when you’re buying a Coke or Pepsi is making a lifestyle identifier rather than making a substantial taste decision.

    Nate:

    “Hey John, have you tried Coke Zero yet?”

    Yeah, it’s the stuff I usually drink now. I like it a lot. My understanding is that it is essentially the original Coke formula, with slight modifications to accomodate the presence of artificial sweeteners.

    Speaking of marketing, what I find interesting about Coke Zero is that it’s not marketed as “diet” — it’s marketed as “calorie-free soda.” I assume Coke folks decided there was a segment of their market (read: men) who don’t like the idea they have to diet.

  12. If you want an authentic non-corn-syrup glucose rush, stock up on the ‘kosher for passover’ beverages in the seasonal isle at the grocery store.

    Sorry, John, but I’ve only seen Pepsi up here in Toledo. Maybe the bigger cities get Coke too?

  13. I’m pretty sure Canuck Coke has corn syrup, too. Over Easter/Passover, I was trying to find Passover Coke here in Toronto, but could only find Passover 7-Up, which did taste somewhat less cloying than regular 7-Up.

    Right now, it’s Coke Zero and Diet 7-Up for me. Sprite Zero is an abomination. Whatever Zero reflavouring worked for Coke failed abysmally on Sprite. I drank a 12 pack of it with no great pleasure, thinking it odd that every single can tasted flat, then realized the next time I went to the store and actually looked at the carton what they had done.

  14. On comparative advertising and cool: Apple has just started running a series of ads with John Hodgman, who is think is the funniest of the current bunch of Daily Show correspondants, as “a PC”, and Justin Long, the always-annoying high school kid from “Ed”, as “a Mac”. And every one of these ads just proves to me that I am a PC person and Apple doesn’t want me as a customer.

    (Hodgman, I just found out, is also the humor editor of the NYT Sunday Magazine section.)

  15. I’m a cola heretic – Coke is my first love, but I’ve been drinking mostly Diet Pepsi since I lost my youthful ability to consume unlimited calories without gaining weight. I haven’t tried Coke Zero – if it does approximate real Coke, I may be able to reconcile my dietary needs with my cola faith.

  16. It’s important to note that all the major brands regionally tweak their beverages. Depending on the bottler and the area, the drinks will be more or less sweeter, more or less carbonated and so on.

    The big brewers do the same with their national brands, as well. It is a well-established food-distribution technique to key in on regional tastes, while still providing a facade of samness that is more in step with transnational marketing.

    That is to say, it may not be that accurate to say you prefer the particular taste of Coke over Pepsi since both of these products will vary quite a bit from region to region and country to country. There is a “recipe” but some local bottlers are allowed, even encouraged, to modify the ingredients to suit local tastes and availability. I’m sure water quality effects more than we might expect, as well.

    Not all bottlers do this, of course, and both Coke and Pepsi are transported around the world as syrup. So, there will obviously be a certain amount of brand specificity.

    Heresy? Maybe. This is /taste/ after all, which is highly subjective. Historically, double-blind taste tests usually show the local off-brand supermarket variety as a close number two. That should tell us something. We know that simply changing the colour of a food, or the colour of the container it is supplied in, is enough to affect the perception of taste radically. Heck, the colour and presentation of food can affect how much food value one can extract from the meal (not necessarily relevant given the current subject, I know).

    That fact is that Cola (like many other products) comes with the weight several decades of advertising collateral, apocryphal stories and both real and made-up histories (we like what we remember). This sort of pervasive suggestion can be very powerful.

    In short, these products vary much more widely than we might expect, and our perceptions of taste and preference may be driven much more than just a notion of “it tastes better.”

    Our large brains, complex cultural signifiers and clever advertising industries have pretty much transcended the singular human notion of taste.

    Just some food for thought. Zing!

  17. I don’t care if they market it with tap dancing cockroaches in sequinned gowns I love Coke and always have. No matter what region, or country for that matter, I was in. About a decade ago I gave up caffeine and have switched to the caffeine free sugarful version of Coke when I have one. It’s good, it satisfies the craving but it’s not the same. I still dream of the perfectly blended fountain Coke over crushed ice.

  18. I usually drink lukewarm Diet Pepsi, since it tastes equally un-sweet and unpleasant in a single bubbly package.

    But BOTH Pepsi and Coke are befouled bathwater compared to the glory that is Vernor’s Ginger Ale. The gods, reclining in decadent indolence around crystal tables in the halls of Olympus, only drink Vernor’s Ginger Ale, because it puts ambrosia to shame. Whenever I’m in Detroit, I buy a dozen or so cases.

    A pity you can’t really FIND it anywhere else. The westernmost I’ve ever found a case was in a Pick ‘n Save in Milwaukee, and I live 400 miles further west than that. So I drink lukewarm Diet Pepsi, in the meanwhile.

  19. I stopped drinking soft drinks entirely three years ago, but when I did drink sugar water, Coke was my drink and Pepsi was crapola. Too sweet. Like flat Coke, basically.

    JeffV

  20. I’m not really picky about the Coke vs. Pepsi issue; I’ll take either. However, my poison of choice is Cherry Coke.

    Pepsi used to have a cherry flavor too, (maybe still does) and ironically theirs tastes exactly like regular Coke. My friend Sara is a Coke purist type and used to work at a store that only sold Pepsi products, so that’s what she drank there. I didn’t believe her until I tried it.

  21. I grew up in Colorado. My dad has us drink Pepsi because supposedly it was made with sugar beet sugar while Coke was made from sugar cane sugar. Since sugar beets were produced by Colorado farmers, we drank Pepsi to be loyal to them.

    I have no idea if this was ever true; surely it isn’t now, but if you grow up drinking one cola over the other, it’s almost impossible to switch. (Of course, now I avoid the stuff altogether and drink orange juice or water–an Atkins Diet proponent told me how evil it is to drink orange juice, but if I have to have a vice, I prefer o.j. to meat).

  22. I prefer Cherry Coke, meself, and regular Coke to Pepsi for sure. But the one soda I crave is Storm; for some reason it had just the right lemon-lime-sweetness balance, and then they replaced it with freakin’ Sierra Mist. I don’t like Sierra Mist. Rar.

  23. Is New Coke now really “Coke II”? They also have a “Coke 2”, or “Coke C2” that isn’t “New Coke” (or is “Very New Coke for the Atkins Crowd”). That must be long after this article was originally written since C2 is only a year or so old.

    Oh Coke, your marketing message baffles me!

  24. All she wanted was a Pepsi–and you wouldn’t give it to her!

    (Sorry.)

    Vernor’s is a regional drink in that there are few hardy souls outside of Michigan, and principalities thereof such as Ohio, who can stand it. But you can find it pretty much everywhere, I’ve found; it’s a staple at BevMo.

  25. It’s my understanding that the whole “new Coke” thing was a calculated evil perpetrated to switch Coke from sugar to corn syrup. They kept new Coke only long enough be sure the stock of old coke had drained away so no direct comparisons could be made.

    I’m interested by Anna’s comment that we wouldn’t notice a small formula change… I think that’s because of the variation within the cola. Different fountains mix different proportions… And apparently different bottling plants do, too. (Huh! Good info, clvrmnky.) I know I’ve noticed Pepsi’s that have been off… “What is wrong with this? ::look at can:: Superbowl XXXVII?!”

    I like Pepsi. Coke is too formaldehyde-y to me. However, uhura is right: the bitterness of Coke and the bitterness of alcohol are a good match. Pepsi’s no good with rum.

  26. Coke is everywhere.

    The reach and overall consumption of Coca-Cola is scary. I recenlty read two company bio’s on Coca-Cola for a piece I wrote for my column, Travelin’ Light.

    In “A World of Coca-Cola,” I put the figures into perspective:

    “One billion Coca-Cola products are consumed a day worldwide. A BILLION! Let’s say that it is one billion cans per day. If we took each can and stacked it one on top of the other, in just a little under seven years, we’d have a wall of cans 32,000 feet high and 1,500 miles long — numbers roughly the same height as Mt. Everest and length of the entire Himalayan range.”

    Here’s the link to the piece in its entirety:

    http://www.thehubweekly.com/community/index.php?id=274

  27. Bah, Coke went downhill as soon as they stopped using Kola nuts and coca leaves.

    I almost exclusively drink Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper. (Or on rare occasions, juice, milk, plain old water, or on very very rare occasions, something with a bit of alcohol in it.) Maybe it was the years of youth-oriented advertising that hooked me on Doing the Dew–but I can’t remember the last time I saw a Dr. Pepper commercial. Maybe it’s ’cause those are the brands my parents always bought. But cola seems a little too John Grisham or Danielle Steel for my Neal Stephenson tastes (not that those authors have endorsed any brand name beverage…that I know of.)

    The most alt.rebellious yet national ad campaign regarding pop was the late, not-quite-lamented OK Soda. Anyone remember that stuff? It didn’t taste packaging the cans and TV commercials alone was enough to get me and my buddies to try it a few times. It was okay.

  28. Heh. This post reminded me of the cola taste tests we used to do in middle school (c. 1986-7). I always was able to distinguish between them and have always preferred Pepsi. The thing that continues to amuse me is that Coke-aficionados will use the same negative terms to describe Pepsi as I do to describe Coke (usually “too sweet” or “flat”). I’m not hard-core, though I’ll always ask for or reach for a Pepsi first (when I do drink cola, which is sometimes but not often). I like the carbonation, as it distracts from the sweetness, which is why I perceive Coke as too sweet, though I’m almost positive they have nearly the same amount of high-fructose corn syrup in them. I do ask for a “Rum and Coke” but mainly that’s because a “Rum and Pepsi” sounds dumb. I usually make Rum and Pepsi because Pepsi’s what I have on hand. I agree that, considering the carbonation, it seems Coke would be a better match for alcohol. I use dark rum, however, which is sweeter, so maybe that balances the scales… but now I’m intrigued. I may have to do a new taste test for rum and Coke or Pepsi.
    On the advertising side, I really don’t perceive a difference myself, mainly because I see them both as huge conglomerates that want my money. For me, it’s about the taste.

  29. It’s my understanding that the whole “new Coke” thing was a calculated evil perpetrated to switch Coke from sugar to corn syrup.

    Not according to snopes.com. “The change in sweetener wasn’t anything that diabolical. Corn syrup was cheaper than cane sugar; that’s what it came down to. In 1980, five years before the introduction of New Coke, half the cane sugar in Coca-Cola had been replaced with high fructose corn syrup. By six months prior to New Coke’s knocking the original Coca-Cola off the shelves, there was no cane sugar in American Coca-Cola. Whether they knew it or not, what consumers were drinking then was 100% sweetened by high fructose corn syrup.”

    I also remember hearing that the change in formula allowed Coke to charge the military full price – there was supposedly some contract that gave the military a deep discount as long as the original formula was used. When you’re 16 that kind of logic sounds plausible, but now it sounds rather retarded…

  30. I’ve actually seen cans of Coke II (formerly New Coke) for sale in Northern Indiana as recently as three years ago. Local bottlers can still churn out the stuff.

    As far as the Pepsi Challenge goes, nearly everytime they set it up, they had warm bottles of Pepsi and Coke. Pepsi is more aromatic than Coke, more pungent. The stronger flavor at room temperature makes it seem like it tastes “better” than warm Coke to a lot of people. I’ve pointed this out in the name of science to people running the Pepsi Challenge — and they don’t want to talk to me anymore…

    Dr. “Real Coke Please” Phil

    PS- The other answer to “Is Pepsi all right?” is “No, but you’re not going to go across the street to buy my a Coke, so it’ll have to do as long as your boss thinks he can tell me what to drink, isn’t it?” (grin)

  31. but I can’t remember the last time I saw a Dr. Pepper commercial

    Dr. Pepper does (did?) the “Stacy’s Mom” commercial with the attractive mother with a minivan load of DP, the annoying “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that” one, and a whole series where singers/dancers would randomly show up (at a country gas station, in a bowling alley, etc) and do a song and dance routine.

    As for Coke vs Pepsi as multinational billion dollar businesses, I was highly amused to hear that Pepsi is apparently the soda of choice in the Middle East, because Coke is associated with America and Imperialism. (Yeah. I know.) This played out in that there is a Pepsi bottling factory in Baghdad, and that when the US first put an embargo on US businesses doing business with Iraq, the local bottler made a local formulation and sold it in their existing stock of “Pepsi” bottles, effectively counterfitting the product they could no longer import, and that after the invasion Pepsi stated they fully understood the situation, would not press any claims about the issue, and looked forward to resuming their contracts.

  32. I do hate Coke for discontinuing Vanilla Coke just after I created the perfect alcoholic drink with it as a main ingredient.

    Yes I am currently hoarding several bottles, why do you ask?

  33. I am extremely sorry to do this to you guys, as you clearly love your carbonated vegetable extracts, and I’d prefer not to be the world’s biggest kill-joy, but have you stopped to think what exactly it is you are happily guzzling down by the 12oz? No, not the your health issues, you’re all adults. I was thinking of these people’s health issues:

    [deleted by John Scalzi — reasoning a few comments down]

    I dare you to read each and every article. Knowing that if you do, you’ll hate yourself just a little bit every time you buy that stuff. You could always sign the petition. Heck, you could stop buying Coke/ Pepsi altogether and get your caffeine the traditional ground-up-beans way. You could sign the petition if you like and are the petition -signing type.

    [deleted]

    Or you can ignore me and/ or delete all this. I won’t think any the less of you. What I have just done is after all really quite rude, like discussing industrial scale animal husbandry during a steak dinner. But it’s one of the issues I find too important to shut up about.

    Sorry.

  34. Re: Vernor’s, Coke Zero

    I grew up in the Detroit suburbs in the 1980s, and I have fond memories of Vernor’s before Pepsi bought the brand (in the late 80s, IIRC). After it was bought, it seems to me that they mucked with the formula a little bit, making it sweeter to its detriment. Possibly it was a switch from cane sugar to corn syrup that did it. Bottler variation might also account for it, although Vernor’s bought in the Detroit area today still tastes sweeter than I remember. Being bought out had one advantage: it made it available nationwide, although hard to find outside of specialist beverage stores like BevMo. I still get Vernor’s when I see it, for old time’s sake…

    Yes I prefer Coke over Pepsi. Why do you ask?

    Coke Zero seems to be a tiny bit sweeter than regular Coke. Not that I can tell exactly anymore, since I’ve switched to Diet Coke some years ago to try to keep my weight under control, and I’ve started to prefer its taste (not as sweet as any other cola, regular or diet).

  35. Slight correction to my prior post:

    Vernor’s was bought by A&W Beverages in 1987, not Pepsi. A&W was bought by Cadbury Schweppes sometime later. (I know I shouldn’t trust my memory when I have Wikipedia easily available.)

  36. It never ceases to amaze me whenever there is a discussion like this over one’s cola preference that the Coke drinkers always claim that Pepsi is “too sweet” when personally I, admittedly in the Pepsi camp, feel that Coke is ridiculously syrupy sweet far surpassing that of Pepsi. Its boggling how people on either side could use the same argument… but there it is… I’ve no clue how one could feel Pepsi is the oversweet one, just as I suspect Coke drinker will think the same in the converse.

    In any case, I only drink Diet Pepsi now anyway, and that rarely.

  37. Reed:

    “I am extremely sorry to do this to you guys…”

    You know, one of the things I find absolutely bugshit annoying are people who say they are sorry to do something that they are, in fact, quite pleased to do. No one asked you to drop your buzzkill links into the thread, Reed, or forced to do it against your will. You did it yourself. So saying that you’re sorry to do it doesn’t wash. Either you’re being a wimp about something you believe in, or you’re just being a passive-aggressive twit who is using a snarky rhetorical shield of guilt and sorrow to make the rest feel like dicks for drinking soda (and, not incidentally, for potentially rolling our eyes at you).

    Neither works here. If you’re going to drop a turd into the punchbowl, do it unapologetically or don’t do it all. I’m going to make it easy for you — I’ve deleted all the links you put into your previous comment. You can add them back into this comment thread if and only if you can admit to yourself and everyone else reading the comment thread that you are, in fact, pleased to be providing the links for people to consider. Don’t be a mamby-pamby chickenshit about it, for God’s sake. Put some goddamn courage into your convictions.

  38. OK. I did the apologising and the chicken-shitting because I have been told, previously, and by intelligent people who I respect, that my moral-high-fround hijacks are considered extremely rude and how dare I ruin their thread/ day/ enjoyment of whatever it is I am bitching about that day. I have had more success getting people to listen to me and think about my points if I go in with a softly-softly, you’re all good people, so sorry to point out approach. Especially as some people might not have been at all aware of the problem and nobody likes some moral highgrounder jeering at them when they SIMPLY DIDN’T KNOW. My usual sparring-partners hate it when I take the moral high-ground. Leaves them nowhere to go but into bad-person land, and they get too defensive to listen. But then I’m British, so perhaps it’s a cultural thing, or down to the fact I was bought up by communist hippies. And frankly, getting you guys to look, and think, was really a tadlet more important than doing some kind of integrity grand-stand chest-banging. Anyone who preferred my previous approach, take it up with John. See? Not apologising now.

    So I’ll say it the way I first thought it, when I read your post this morning.

    Why are you drinking this stuff? Why are you even beginning to consider letting it into your house, let alone your mouths and the mouths of your children? Do you have any IDEA of the true cost of that stuff you guzzle so happily is? In India, the Coca Cola planst have taken so much water from the water table that crops are dying of drought in the Monsoon season. The water falling from the sky for weeks on end season. They are then dumping the waste-products and toxins left over from production back onto the fields and into the rivers. They even claimed it was ‘good for the land’. Now Indian farmers are going bankrupt as their crops die, their workers have no jobs any more, they have to walk miles and miles to find drinkable water, they can’t cook as the poisonous crap Coca Cola have polluted the water with makes rice harden rather than soften, they can’t wash without getting rashes. MMM, yummy, how I love that tang of carbonated despair. And then the drink itself is contaminated with DDT and other pesticides. Oh, don’t panic, you’re in the First World. You won’t get the contaminated stuff, you have laws to protect you from having to drink DDT. No, the dirty stuff is reserved for poor countries. Who cares if they get sick? Do you? Do you care enough to stop drinking your lovely brown fizzy and make a fuss? What apart from rich Americans and Europeans making a fuss is going to stop Coca Cola from pulling this kind of crap?

    These links all date from about a year ago. I can’t find any links showing that Coca Cola have agreed to compensate the farmers, clean up the pollutants they left, leave enough water for everyone, or stop selling heavily pesticide-polluted drinks to Asia. Anyone knows different, please tell. I used to like poisoning myself with corn-syrup and caffeine of an evening.

    http://www.indiaresource.org/campaigns/coke/index.html
    http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn04162005.html
    http://www.mindfully.org/Water/2005/India-Coca-Cola-Pepsi14mar05.htm

    http://www.petitiononline.com/q2517225/petition.html

    Does that get the links put back up or do you need more swearing first?

  39. I don’t know what Reed was on about, but I’ve been hearing a lot lately about benzene in sodas – just another reason to avoid the stuff. Apparently ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) breaks down sodium benzoate (the preservative they add to sodas) to form benzene – in some cases creating levels much higher than the EPA’s limit for benzene in tap water.

  40. The most alt.rebellious yet national ad campaign regarding pop was the late, not-quite-lamented OK Soda. Anyone remember that stuff?

    Yeah! I grabbed a 2-liter of it once when I was visiting Colorado (it never got past the test market stage, if I remember.) I kept the Charles Burns label, but ten years and four moves later, I can’t find it any more.

  41. Reed:

    “I have had more success getting people to listen to me and think about my points if I go in with a softly-softly, you’re all good people, so sorry to point out approach.”

    Well, you know. It’s not a binary thing. It’s possible to present non-trivial information without being either spinelessly apologetic or annoyingly strident, i.e., without crapping in the punchbowl on way or another. It’s a matter of modulation.

  42. I can sympathize with Krissy’s cravings. I once drove around a large metro downtown after midnight on a desperate hunt for Dr. Pepper. I will admit I am an adict for the stuff. It has to be in cans (absolutely no bottles of any type) and just “such” a temperature — not too cold but only a _little_ warm. It took over an hour to finally find a gas station that had it and I ended up paying a 12-pack price for a 6-pack of the stuff. It sure was good, though.

    I think my husband did all but mainline Mountain Dew as a teenager. And the weirdo stuff that they did with it almost defies imagination (so I won’t – it can make the unwary hurl). I have managed, after a long and nasty fight, to get him off of sugar and/or caffeine for the most part.

    Right now, though, the cola drink of choice in our household is Diet Coke w/ Lime. All the family stocks the stuff. (It’s great with Bacardi!)

  43. “Well, you know. It’s not a binary thing. It’s possible to present non-trivial information without being either spinelessly apologetic or annoyingly strident, i.e., without crapping in the punchbowl on way or another. It’s a matter of modulation.”

    You’re right.

    So, how would you tell a bunch of people you respect that they are doing something you find morally reprehensible? Especially when your first attempt has one of them coming back at you and gives you a roasting for being chicken-shit about your convictions?

    And now I think actually I had better shut the heck up and go back to lurking.

  44. Reed:

    “So, how would you tell a bunch of people you respect that they are doing something you find morally reprehensible?”

    Well, as anyone who hangs around here who voted Republican (or Nader) in the last two US elections can tell you, I usually tell them flat out that they’ve done a jackassed thing. But it’s also well-known that I can be something of a dick from time to time, in alternation with being perfectly reasonable. So I might not be the best role model in this regard.

    However, my point is that whatever your opinions and your method of delivery, in this particular place, I think you get more mileage out of saying “this is what I believe.” Being apolgetic simply as a rhetorical maneuver isn’t my favorite thing (being genuinely apolgetic is another matter entirely, but it doesn’t seem to be the case here).

    In any event, don’t feel like you have to go back to lurking, either. I like a variety of voices here. Just be yourself when you do pipe up.

  45. Vernor’s and coffee ice cream make a fabulous float. Cola of any kind only works for me if there’s rum in it, otherwise it’s all too sweet.

  46. Well, as some on this posting believe that Pepsi with Rum is morally reprehensible, it’s all relative.
    I’ve never tried Don Q rum, though I’d love to. My rum of choice (until I get me a bottle of Negrita) is Meyers.

  47. Unfortunately, they scammed you. The classic formulation had sugar as the first ingredient. Only sugar. Now it’s high-fructose con syrup and sugar.

    I had a friend who bought ases of the original before the New Coke fiasco. I checked the ingredients when they went back. Different.

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