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Is Coca-Cola Still America’s Favorite Soda?

Margaret Lipman
By
Published Jun 07, 2024
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It’s probably no surprise that Coca-Cola remains America’s favorite soda. But if you thought that Pepsi was a lock for the runner-up position, think again. The battle for the nation’s second-best-selling carbonated soft drink is remarkably close, with dark horse Dr Pepper technically edging out Pepsi.

According to 2023 statistics from the trade publication Beverage Digest, Coke’s popularity is pretty much untouchable, and it currently commands 19.2% of the soda market by volume. Recently, though, Pepsi has lost some ground and now has just 8.3% of the market, putting it on par with Dr Pepper. Sprite (also owned by Coca-Cola) has an 8.1% market share, while Diet Coke has 7.8%.

So why is Dr Pepper on the rise? Much of its appeal has to do with its impossible-to-define taste. The company has long stated that it features 23 different flavors, without revealing what they are. The recipe, in two parts, is allegedly stored in two high-security bank vaults in Dallas and, when pressed, Dr Pepper executives ambiguously state that it is a “blend of fruit and flavor extracts.” Over the years, amateur (and professional) taste-testers have guessed that the soda contains flavors such as amaretto, cherry, clove, nutmeg, plum, raspberry, tomato, vanilla, and many others. And pepper, of course.

Despite being well into its second century on the market (it was first sold in 1885 and introduced nationally in 1904), the taste of Dr Pepper appears to be squarely on-trend, thanks to the current popularity of “swicy” (sweet and spicy) food and beverages. Coca-Cola is also looking to get in on the action with the introduction of Coca-Cola Spiced.

Can you handle the taste?

  • *Dr Pepper has long enjoyed immense regional popularity in the South, gradually going mainstream from the 1970s. The company traces its beginnings to Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas, where a pharmacist named Charles Alderton is said to have created the unique Dr Pepper flavor by blending various fruit syrups at the soda fountain.

  • *There are numerous myths surrounding the origin of the Dr Pepper name, though it is most probable that the use of “Dr” was simply to make the product seem like it might have health benefits. Early ads even stated that it “aids digestion and restores vim, vigor, and vitality.”

  • *According to the Food and Drug Administration, Dr Pepper is a “pepper soda” rather than a cola, root beer, or fruit-flavored soft drink. In the 1970s, the Coca-Cola Company introduced a similar soda, Mr Pibb, now known as Pibb Xtra, to compete with Dr Pepper in this soft drink category.

  • *Over the years, Dr Pepper has introduced numerous flavor varieties, along with Diet Dr Pepper and Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper. Some of the newest editions include Dr Pepper Strawberries & Cream, which the company describes as a “standout success,” and Dr Pepper Creamy Coconut.

  • *Some people swear by hot Dr Pepper with a slice of lemon as a winter warmer. Hot Dr Pepper was marketed by the company beginning in the 1960s, with the simple recipe requiring you to heat the soda in a saucepan until it steams and then pour over thin slices of lemon. Adding Bacardi rum made it into a cocktail known as the “Schuss-Boomer” (a downhill skiing reference).

  • *Another longstanding DIY variation on Dr Pepper involves dropping peanuts into the drink, which many praise for the added crunch and saltiness. More recently, TikTok users have suggested adding dill pickles, though this concoction has gotten mixed reviews, to say the least.

  • *One of the oldest myths about Dr Pepper is that it contains prune juice and that drinking it can help you be more “regular.” The company has firmly denied this, though it’s possible that the soda could contain prune (or at least plum) flavor.

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Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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