Pepsi: The Pop of Many Flavours

As far as brands and products in pop culture go, Pepsi Cola is one of the biggies. It’s legendary, iconic, popular and known around the world. One of the ways to keep a brand fresh year after year is to reinvent itself through experimentation and innovation. For Pepsi, that can take on a major form, like logo redesigns, slogan changes or adding a new flavour to their line-up. It can also come in smaller forms, like tie-in merchandising or launching limited-time or region-specific flavours.

And that’s where we’re going today. Pepsi is no stranger to the limited edition (or short-lived) flavour-game, and since this holiday season they opted to foist upon the public a little treat known as Salted Caramel Pespi (just the idea makes me shudder), I thought it might be a good time to look back at some of the highlights of Pespi’s infamous flavour history to see just where Salted Caramel ranks the list of Wow! To WTF?
To start things off, I think I should point out that this is not the first caramel flavoured Pepsi product! (It’s also not the first to have a “salt” flavour – but more on that later). That distinction goes to Caramel Cream, part of the Pepsi Jazz line of diet Pepsi drinks available from 2006-2009. The other flavours (at launch) included Strawberries and Cream and Black Cherry French Vanilla (which sounds like they couldn’t decide on whether Black Cherry or French Vanilla should be the third flavour and someone finally said – “eh, just mix ‘em together”).

And it’s also not the first Christmas-themed Pepsi. The cinnamon-tinged Pepsi Holiday Spice debuted in 2004 and the nutmeg-and-cocoa flavoured Christmas Pepsi appeared in 2007 and 2008. Both sound much more appealing than Salted Caramel Pepsi.

Now let’s dig deeper and see  what other random acts of flavour Pepsi has committed in the past:

Pepsi Blue and Crystal Pepsi 
A list of Pepsi flavours wouldn’t be complete without these two Pepsi failures. The fruity, blue-coloured Pepsi Blue was an insta-pass with consumers and Crystal Pepsi’s big thing (that it was Pepsi…only clear), was a big miss as well.

Pepsi Tropical Chill, Strawberry Burst and Raging Razzberry  
Nothing says “90s” more than this trio of flavours that never made it out of test markets in 1991. From the can design to the naming convention, these seemed like Pepsi’s misguided attempt to market “outrageous attitude” in a can.

Pepsi Fire
Jumping ahead to the present day, this limited-edition, cinnamon-flavoured Pepsi launched in the summer of 2017 with a simultaneous big push as a featured Slurpee flavour at 7-11.

Pepsi Cappucino – one of many coffee-flavoured Pepsis, this one is only available in Russia and parts of Europe. Which is a perfect segue to…

Pepsi Goes International 
Here’s where things start going off the rails. We’re going around the world – so get your Pepsi passport ready for some distinctly different stamps flavours.

Pepsi Samba (Australia)
“Tropical flavoured” Pepsi with mango and tamarind
Pepsi Boom (Germany)
Pepsi with no caffeine, no sugar and no artificial sweeteners (aka “no-fun Pepsi”)
Pepsi Green (Thailand)
Thailand’s answer to Pepsi Blue + Crystal Pepsi. A green-coloured Pepsi that tastes just like…Pepsi
Pepsi Ice Cream (Russia)
Apparently it tastes like cream soda, but why give your Pepsi a known beverage flavour when you can name it after a dessert food instead? (Mmm…I could really go for a Glazed Donut Pepsi, right now)

And now for the international all-star. Japan is playing the Pepsi game on a whole ‘nother level, y’all. This is but a mere sampling of the whacked-out concoctions they have filling their store’s Pepsi-branded shelves and cooling units:

Pepsi Salty Watermelon
See? I told you salt would be making a reappearance!
Pepsi Ghost
A Halloween limited edition “mystery” flavour. Spooky, indeed.
Pepsi Blue Hawaii
Blending together the natural flavours of lemon and pineapple and blue.
Pepsi White
For those people who prefer a Pespi that tastes like yogurt and looks like Alka-seltzer.

Well, congratulations Japan, you did it. Suddenly, Salted Caramel Pepsi doesn’t seem that crazy anymore.


Pop, Pop, Pop!

The three “Pop”s in the title above refer to that magical instance when: Pop (1) meets Pop (2) and it results in a Pop (3), a piece of pure perfection.

Or, to be less vague, it’s when Pop (Singers) collaborate with Pop (Drinks) to make commercials that become pieces of Pop (Culture) perfection.

Now, singers have been shilling sodas for decades, but starting in the early 1990s and peaking just over a decade later, the big soft drink companies of the world went all-in on their popstars + pop drinks mission, and the results just kept getting bigger and better. Today I’m going to touch on just a few notable ones that have remained my favourites over the years.

Also, be sure to check out the very end of the post for a little gem that predates this whole era and is not only a blast from the past but a blast of yesteryear pop culture that will blow your mind.

Paula Abdul (Diet Coke)

Paula Abdul brought a whole new visual dynamic to pop music when she burst on the music scene following years of choreographing music videos for other artists. It only made sense then, that in the early 90s she was tapped by Diet Coke to be their spokesperson and star in a series of commercials that utilized her talents as both a vocalist and dancer. The most notable of these was a highly ambitious project that took remastered film versions of older Hollywood stars like Cary Grant, Groucho Marx and Gene Kelly and integrated them into newly-shot scenes with Abdul (remember, this was LONG before CGI and hologramming). For Abdul’s part, she was already a pro at dancing with and reacting to someone wasn’t actually there (namely, one MC Skat Kat, the animated costar of her “Opposites Attract” video), so she’s aces all around. Also, I believe at the time, this was one of the most expensive commericals ever made.


Spice Girls (Pepsi)

Somehow during their non-stop whirlwind tour of world domination in the mid 90s, the Spice Girls found the time to do some shilling for Pepsi – and it was some serious, next-level cross promotion. In this particular advert, our lovely Spices are singing the track “Move Over” from their then-current second album Spiceworld. One of the oft-repeated lyrics of “Move Over” has the girls chanting “Generation Next, Generation Next”. And guess what Pepsi’s slogan at the time was? Yup. So, with Pepsi’s slogan earworming its way onto every Spice fans playlist, not only did “Move Over” become “that Spice Girls song in the Pepsi ad”, it became “that Spice Girls song that IS a Pepsi ad”.


Britney Spears (Pepsi)

And then there was Britney.

This is what I feel is the peak of the popstar/pop drink collaboration era, because I doubt we’ll ever see such a long-running, high profile pop/pop collab as the one forged between Britney and Pepsi. One that resulted in the pieces of pop culture that is their Holy Trinity of ads from the early 2000s. Each Pepsi commercial that Spears did was an EVENT and they were treated as such (and premiered during Super Bowls, natch). The first was a full-on music video, (Brit’s “The Joy of Pepsi” is closer to an actual commercial single than commercial jingle) with Britney and her legion of backup dancers taking over a Pepsi factory before relocating to a rooftop billboard (hello Justin Timberlake cameo!), while the third was a historical mini-movie set in the Roman Coliseum and featured not only Britney, but Pink (!) AND Beyonce (!!) as gladitors singing “We Will Rock You” (also there, in a non-singing role, Enrique Iglesias – because, why not?).

But my favourite was her second commercial (showcased below) which featured Britney in snippets of Pepsi ads from “across the eras” and fans could vote for which version got her full stand-alone commercial (decade-old spoiler alert, the 50s version won). How much do I love this one? Well, let’s just say that I ripped the audio from it, put it in my iTunes library and it is STILL one of my most top-played tracks ever (what that says about me, I’m not so sure…)


Beyonce (Pepsi)

As I mentioned, since the Britney era we haven’t seen as  many of the high profile pop/pop ad campaigns as before, but that doesn’t means the soft drinks companies have gone soft on pop stars. These days they just seem more focused on smaller campaigns featuring more “niche artists” like Tori Kelly and Janelle Monae. However, Beyonce did do an advert for Pepsi just a couple of years ago, that for some unknown reason was never released. But it is STUNNING, and it is right up there with the best from Brit’s heyday, so it’s being included here as well.


And now for an extra-special, way,way back bonus:

Ann-Margaret (Canada Dry)

This musical number/crash course in late 60s pop culture is BONKERS and I love it. If ever there was such a thing as a “soft drink expert”, Ann-Margaret has convinced me that SHE is IT, now and forever. Cheers!