Sugar Free Cola Challenge

Monday, April 1, 2019

My quest for finding and reviewing the cheapest products possible has taken an interesting turn. This time I roped in a group of friends to tackle a twist on the Pepsi challenge - testing an array of sugar free cola beverages, seeing what comes out on top and if the no-name brands can stand up to the titans.

The motivation for this challenge was my friend Mark’s proclamation that Diet Coke is his drink of choice and, while some other options are bearable, nothing beats the original. It’s 95% of his beverage consumption - outside of exorbitant craft beer, at least. He put his pre-game odds of spotting the Diet Coke at 75% - very modest for the enthusiast he is.

The test had six choices. Three were Coca Cola official brand - Zero, No Sugar and Diet. Chasing this was Pepsi Max and two store brands - Nice Sparkling Cola from The Warehouse and Value Cola from New World.

A Five Star Selection. A Five Star Collection.

Three contestants took part in the challenge, each given six cups marked only by a number or letter - and the drinks were in a different order for each contestant, to prevent them being influenced by others’ opinions.

The Results:

Actual Drink Overall Rating Mark's Guess Mark's Rating Gordy's Rating Nate's Guess Nate's Rating
Diet Coke 12 Diet Coke 5 6 Value 1
Coke Zero 9 Coke Zero 1 5 Nice 3
Coke No Sugar 5 Pepsi Max 1 3 Coke No Sugar 1
Pepsi Max 12 Coke No Sugar 3 4 Pepsi Max 5
Nice (The Warehouse) 10 Nice 4 2 Coke Zero 4
Value (New World) 4 Value 1 1 Diet Coke 2

He got it! Mark did spot which one the Diet Coke was, but wasn’t very confident in his choice. Curiously, all players were surprised that the difference between the choices was far more subtle than expected. Nate has a preference for Pepsi Max, and was able to spot that. Gordy wasn’t familiar with the drink choices so opted just to review rather than identifying them.

The Nice store brand was said to taste like slightly watered down Diet Coke, but the Value brand just wasn’t good. Outside of this, there are rather few trends to show from these results. Coke Zero beat Coke No Sugar, but Diet Coke did come out on top for two of the three contestants. People have preferences, so this is not an objective ranking. Pepsi Max had a strong showing - even if the resident Diet Coke fan ranked it in the middle.

Cupping. Cupping.

The result? Well, no minds were changed. Despite claiming that the difference between the drinks wasn’t great, Mark’s favourite Diet Coke still ranked number 1. He’ll be sticking with that as his beverage of choice, with the added confidence of “knowing”.