Monday, October 27, 2008
I once had a conversation with a student of mine where I mentioned to her that the Japanese snack makers didn't seem to have much success with their varieties since they kept changing their products and trying out new variants rather than finding flavors the consumers enjoyed and continued to purchase. She responded by saying that, when she last went to the U.S., she felt sorry for Americans because they were always offered the same old things and didn't get a chance to sample as many varieties.
The perspective each of us held summed up pretty well the difference between the Japanese consumer view and the American one. The Americans generally look for something great to add to their regular rotation of consumption. The Japanese are looking for something novel to try before they move along to the next interesting thing.
Enter Pepsi White. A lot of people who have sampled this drink and blogged about it have wondered why it exists at all. They figure Pepsi is trying too hard or trying to be too wacky. What Pepsi is doing is building brand name recognition and interest in their drinks through offering short-lived varieties. The consumer is not supposed to love Pepsi White (nor were they supposed to be great fans of the previously released Pepsi Cucumber). They are only supposed to be curious enough about it to buy it until the limited distribution of it peters out.
Keeping this as well as the bad reviews of Pepsi White in mind, I decided to give it a try. It's rather difficult to find since I couldn't locate it at any supermarkets. I could only get it at a 7-11 (which I rarely patronize). This fits in with the idea that the drink is for novelty. They expect people who are perusing a convenience store for a snack or drink to be more open-minded than the housewife looking to buy ingredients for tonight's menu.
The convenience store price for a 500 ml. beverage is about 150 yen ($1.60 USD) so this was an expensive experiment. The packaging for the bottle looks pretty nice with the white label and little Pepsi logos. The ingredients list reveals that it contains fructose syrup, flavoring, citric acid, preservatives, and caffeine. No calorie information is offered, but I'm guessing it's the same as standard sugared soft drinks.
A sniff reveals strong hints of lemon with a weaker hint of yogurt. The lemon element is likely from the recipe for original Pepsi as regular Pepsi contains lemon. The first sip offers the taste of Pepsi with a yogurt-tasting finish. The flavor is actually multi-layered at first, though after a few sips, it seems to come together into a funky combination followed by more of a taste of Pepsi with a odd yogurt aftertaste.
This is definitely a peculiar drink, but it is exactly what it sells itself to be. That is, it's yogurt Pepsi. The question isn't whether or not Pepsi successfully merged the flavors together, but rather whether or not they should have. As a curiosity being marketed in a country where yogurt drinks are very popular, there is some sense in offering Pepsi White. As a drink a person is supposed to drink and enjoy, it doesn't work at all. Still, it'd be interesting to see if the sales of regular Pepsi were favorably impacted by the release of strange novelty flavors like this.