First coined “Brad’s Drink” way back in 1893, Pepsi has undergone many changes in taste and style over the years. From the standard sugary cola to more exotic flavors, Pepsi has developed so many different variations since its humble beginnings as a simple vanilla, sugar, and “kola” nut drink. With the new Pineapple Pepsi hitting shelves in the US this summer, fans of the drink are converging again to rank the soda. While staying away from the original, which stands alone, here is the official foolproof list of the ten best Pepsi drinks ranked worst to best.
10. Pepsi Kona
First marketed in May of 1996, Pepsi Kona made its debut in Philadelphia and was yet another addition to the popular 90’s trend of coffee-flavored soft drinks. This being Pepsi’s second attempt at a morning beverage, hopes were high for Pepsi Kona, and every effort was put into its advertising. If Pepsi was going to make a dent into actual coffee sales in America, it had to step up its game. The company rose to the occasion, creating early advertisements for the new drink which included a hilarious video of singer Tom Jones performing “It’s not Unusual” on a school’s cafeteria table while holding a bottle of the soda. There was also the famous “Kona Hummer” which would drive around town and hand out samples of the coffee-flavored beverage. With slogans like, “spank your senses” and “grab life by the Konas” airing even before the release of the drink, Pepsi was determined to succeed. But despite the company’s best efforts, Pepsi Kona never made it to national distribution and production was halted before the flavor ever left Philly. Pepsi Kona was the brand’s second attempt at a morning drink, and although the taste passed every quality test, people just didn’t seem to want to part with their usual cup of Joe.
9. Pepsi Blue
Unlike its coffee-flavored counterpart, Pepsi Blue boasted an ambiguous “berry” flavor and was known to catch a consumer’s eye with its striking blue color. Originally launched in North America in 2002, Pepsi Blue only made it two years in the Western market before being discontinued largely due to disinterest and a nefarious coloring agent illegal in most countries. The drink was targeted at early teens and tasted much more sugary than the original soda. Many consumers guessed when it came to the flavor: raspberry, cotton candy, and blueberry were common guesses, but Pepsi never confirmed any of them. Throughout its short career in the US and Canada, Pepsi Blue spawned advertisements starring popular celebrities like Britney Spears, the band Sev, and Papa Roach, which unfortunately did little to raise sales. In staple Pepsi Kona style, Pepsi Blue also had its own signature vehicle in the form of a VW New Beetle which handed out free bottles of Blue around popular shopping malls. The soda was also famously promoted during New York Mets games where the blue-colored drink became synonymous with the colors of the ball club. Although Pepsi Blue is no longer available in North America, it’s still up for grabs in the Philippines and Indonesia.
8. Crystal Pepsi
Possibly one of the more famous discontinued flavors of Pepsi out there due to its short comeback in the 2010s, Crystal Pepsi made waves in North America between 1992 and 94, hitchhiking on the early 90’s “purity” craze with its unmistakeable clear look. Originally sold in Europe in the 1990’s, Crystal Pepsi boasted a “caffeine free” marketing plan, using slogans like, “you’ve never seen a taste like this” to jumpstart its career on the market. Within its first year in the US, Crystal Pepsi raked in one whole percent of American soft drink sales, totalling around a whopping $474 million dollars. Seeing the success of the drink, Coca-Cola quickly manufactured a copy-cat drink called Tab Clear which was designed specifically to create an unpopular drink, taking the spotlight away from Crystal Pepsi and making clear soda seem like a dime a dozen. By 1993, Pepsi had pulled the drink out of production and succumbed to the “kamikaze” effect created by Tab Clear. In March of 2015 however, petitions to bring back the flavor rocked the internet and Crystal Pepsi was returned to shelves by the summer of 2016 to the pleasure of the public. Unlike its release in 1990, this version of the drink contained caffeine. Since then, the soda has been released again a handful of times but has never seen the same level of success as when it was first released.
7. Pepsi Twist
Pepsi Twist made its way to the US in the summer of 2000 and lasted on shelves until it was discontinued in 2006. As one of Pepsi’s first citrus-flavored drinks, Pepsi Twist had a distinct lemon taste which the company hoped would fly out of stores like crazy during the summer months. The soda’s formula underwent many variations as it was marketed outside of North America – for example, becoming a lime flavored drink in Brazil. Overall, it succeeded fairly well in other countries, sometimes outselling the original flavor of Pepsi. In 2003, Pepsi Twist was marketed during the Super Bowl, with a commercial starring Ozzy, Jack, and Kelly Osbourne with Florence Henderson and Donny and Marie Osmond. Long-time Pepsi collaborator Britney Spears also famously endorsed the flavor, appearing in a comedic ad with Austin Powers. For unknown reasons, the drink was taken off the market and is no longer among the Pepsi flavors listed on their website. However, the flavor is still available in many other countries outside the US. Just before the halt in production, a toy by the name of “Pepsi Optimus Prime” was created by a Japanese company under the name of “Pepsi Convoy”. By the time it reached the US, the toy came packaged in a Pepsi Twist box and mimicked the staple Pepsi branding colors.
6. Caffeine-Free Pepsi
Differing slightly from its sister flavors, Caffeine-Free Pepsi is designed to appeal to more health-conscious consumers. First introduced in 1982 under the name Pepsi Free, the drink gave the soda market quite a shock as it was the first caffeine-free beverage created and marketed by a major brand. Upon release, the can’s color mimicked Coca-Cola’s standard red, but Caffeine-Free Pepsi later changed their background color to gold to lessen confusion between the two. The soda also seems to have one of the longest track records for movie appearances, making two separate cameos in the 1983 flick, “Mr. Mom”, the 1986 film “Cobra” with Sylvester Stallone, and the blockbuster classic “Back to the Future”. In the movie, Marty McFly asks for a “Pepsi Free”, one of the alternate names for the flavor. But since the soda was not yet available in the 1950’s where the scene was set, he is told that he has to pay for a Pepsi in order to get one. Unlike some competing caffeine-free drinks like “Sport Cola” by the Canada Dry company, Caffeine-Free Pepsi has done as well in stores since its release and continues to be a featured item on the Pepsi website. Besides, if these film appearances are anything to go by, it’s safe to say that Caffeine-Free Pepsi is the way to go.
5. Pepsi Vanilla
Commonly known as a staple in the history of the company, Pepsi Vanilla was first bottled in North America the summer of 2003. Released alongside a Diet version of the flavor, the vanilla cola drink was an attempt to take away some of the sales being made by rebel company Coca-Cola with their Vanilla Coke flavor. Around 2008, the soda was mysteriously discontinued, but replaced on shelves as a permanent flavor a while later. According to consumers, Pepsi Vanilla is simply a slight variant of the original Pepsi flavor and offers an extra kick of vanilla sweetness with every sip. Coupling the North America release, Pepsi Vanilla was also widely marketed in the Philippines for a limited time along with the infamous Pepsi Lime. Unfortunately, the flavor didn’t last long there and was removed in 2018. Sporting the usual brown color of Pepsi, the design of Pepsi Vanilla can be distinguished by a picture of a vanilla flour and beans on the bottle’s label, right beside the standard red, blue, and white globe. Today, Pepsi Vanilla still receives rave reviews and continues to have fans in the US and beyond.
4. Pepsi Wild Cherry
This version of Pepsi first came onto the scene in 1988. A versatile soda, it comes in diet and vanilla cherry forms respectively and even branched out into the cosmetics market as a cherry lip-balm which remains on shelves today. Still widely available in Canada and the US, Pepsi Wild Cherry has also found a home in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. Before 2005, the soda was known by a slightly different name; “Wild Cherry Pepsi”, but was later rebranded with a slight change in formula. In 2007, the classic blue red and white logo was also under reconstruction which caused a second rebranding issue with the Cherry-flavored soda, as the name of the brand needed to be moved up on the bottle to accommodate the new globe design. Unlike the previous sodas listed here, Pepsi Wild Cherry is still available for purchase and has received plenty of rave reviews on Pepsi’s website. Described as having a “sweet, crisp taste,” the drink is still going strong and is a standout in the soft drink world.
3. Pepsi Throwback
This variant of the drink brought a whole new set of ingredients to the table. Pepsi Throwback, otherwise known as “Pepsi-Cola made with Real Sugar”, first came to stores during the sugar crisis of the 1980’s. As government-imposed tariffs caused the cost of natural sugars to increase, soft drink companies were forced to switch to less “clean” methods of sweetening like high fructose corn syrup, which we see in many drinks today. Pepsi was one of the last to make the switch, but eventually the all-natural sugar taste was overthrown. In the late 2000’s however, buyers of the drink were pushing for natural sugars again, arguing that it offered a sweeter taste, and that the price of sugar had decreased since the tariffs of 1980. Hearing this, Pepsi quickly gathered its team and came up with the Pepsi Throwback formula which mainly uses real sugar cane to sweeten the drink. The new release of the soda also lacked citric acid to better mimic the original taste of Pepsi. Seeing this version become a hit, Pepsi renewed the batch the following winter of 2010 and reports of the drink becoming a permanent fixture within the company were running rampant. By 2014, the Pepsi Throwback name had been replaced with “Pepsi-Cola Made with Real Sugar” and boasted even less sodium than the original Throwback brand. In terms of marketing, both versions of the natural sugar drink used older designs with the 1940’s Pepsi script on the can and a label saying “Throwback”. By 2009, Pepsi Throwback had replaced this with an exact replica of the 1973 logo which had the brand’s name in block letters sitting in the center of the classic Pepsi globe.
2. Pepsi Lime
Runner up on this list comes Pepsi Lime, sometimes called Pepsi Splash Lime. This soda flavor was first introduced in 2005 as a diet soda and spawned heavy competitor drinks like Lime Coke from the Coca-Cola Company. In 2007, it was discontinued for a short time due to a lack of advertisement, but it was shortly reintroduced in the summer of 2019 as a specialty drink alongside Mango and Berry flavors. A YouTube video circling around the internet during this time notified the public that the lime flavor would be back on shelves shortly, and by mid-April, all three new flavors were again seen in stores. Similar to the Pepsi Twist flavor, this soda offers a kick of lime with every sip, carrying the tagline; “Pepsi with a splash of lime juice”. While the drink is still offered on US shelves and in several other countries, Canada made a slight alteration to the name and the formula, creating another lime flavor with “Pepsi Real Lime” which is one of the featured drinks on Pepsi’s website. The lime, mango, and berry flavors were also the first time Pepsi added real fruit juice to their drinks. The packaging for Pepsi Lime was modeled after the standard Pepsi can and includes the trademark globe and the brand’s name in lowercase, adding a little image of a sliced lime in the bottom right hand corner to distinguish the can from regular Pepsi. The top of the can also sports a sweeping green band overtop the standard blue of the can. The Canadian version is very similar, the only difference being the message to customers on the can boasting a spritz of real lime. Today, Pepsi Lime is still considered one of the company’s true successes.
1. Diet Pepsi
Finally, we reach number one. While Pepsi has come out with some outlandish flavors over its many years of operation, one of its greatest successes comes from the slight variant of their original drink—Diet Pepsi. First marketed in 1963, Diet Pepsi includes zero sugar and was one of the first diet colas to be distributed nationwide in the US. Since then, it has become a global phenomenon as it was later released in the UK, greatly expanding the drink’s market reach and becoming almost as much of a household name as the original Pepsi. First marketed as a “Patio” drink, the soda reached great levels of success with the generation of increasingly health-conscious baby boomers and an overall shift in North American dietary habits. Diet Pepsi’s main competition in the 1960’s and beyond is Coca-Cola’s “Tab” company with drinks like Diet Coke. But despite the heavy competition, Diet Pepsi represented 5.3 percent of all American soft drink sales as of 2010, ranking as the number seven soft drink brand by volume. Diet Pepsi continues to prove its versatility as a marketing brand and is still being adapted to make diet versions of many other Pepsi flavors. It was also the first product to have a “freshness date” which was later adapted by many other soft drink companies and became a widespread practice within the industry. Since its release as a “little sister” product alongside the original Pepsi, Diet Pepsi has made a name for itself in the industry and has earned its rightful spot at the top of the list.