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Mar 13, 2012 05:15 PM

Coke vs Pepsi Challenge! Who wants to try?

I just finished reading a book called "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. In it he discusses the Pepsi Challenge and the flawed sampling methods which led to Coke re-formulating their product. We all know how that ended up so I'll skip to the chase:

Can you tell the difference between Pepsi cola and Coca-cola?*

Apparently during sensory analysis tests, tasters use a Degree of Difference scale with 1 being indiscernible and 14 being extremely different. Salt & Vinegar chips from Wise vs Lays have a degree of difference of 8. Coke and Pepsi have a DoD of 4.

And supposedly, most of us can't tell the difference!

Triangle Test: Given three samples which contain two identical and one different, identify which one is different (while controlling everything but type of cola, of course).

Anyone want to give it a shot and bravely share their results? I don't have any assistants to help right now but hope to do it soon. The author reports that among his friends, most were not able to do it and felt duped or tricked. The probability of being correct by guessing is p = 1/3 so you have to do significantly better. Professional tasters get it right 100% of the time.

What other different but similar items would you be willing to put to the Triangle Test?!

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  1. *NOTE: Yes, I know there's already a thread titled "Distinguishing Coke and Pepsi" or something like that. But it's from 2002 and there's already been some comments made in 2011 about bringing it back up. Coke/Pepsi and their formula has been in the news recently and I just finished this book so I thought this might be interesting to some of us. I never heard of this type of test so I wanted to share and to see if anyone has done it or is willing to do it. Plus, to get ideas from other fun palate-challenging tests. So please don't yell at me :-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: seamunky

      It has been 30 years since I last consumed a soft drink. That said, I do remember recognizing a distinct difference between the two back when. I am ALMOST tempted to buy some of each as a tastebud test - you make it sound interesting!

    2. Personally I think both are vile. I don't drink much soda except for Dr. Browns Cel-Ray and artisanal root beers, birch beers, and sarsparilla a few times a year. That said, I find it is very easy to distinguish between the various colas. I guess it all depends upon how finely you have tuned your palate. The average person doesn't really focus on their food as much as someone who places importance on flavors and perceptions of flavors.

      1. I drink very little of either so I'm not really interested in actually testing myself, but after a lifetime of experience of them, I can't imagine I could not tell the difference. It's pretty simple: apart from it being excruciatingly sweet, I like the basic flavor of Pepsi and I dislike Coke. Dislike it enough to avoid it. Granting that they're both "cola beverages", I think they taste very different and in general I definitely don't have a palate worth bragging about.

        PS: This depends to some degree on just how cold they are, but then, if you make anything cold enough, you basically just won't taste it at all...

        1. I recall back when I was a kid and the Pepsi Challenge was rolled out nationwide. At more than one location - and usually not at grocery stores - A table would be set up where you could try the two in a blind tasting. I could always pick out the Coke, the Pepsi was sweeter to my taste and I did not care for it.

          These days I drink very little soda unless it is mixed with something more palatable, like rum. It would be interesting to do some blind tastings to see if my preferred brand holds up against a cheaper or more expensive brand, but I am afraid I will just end up with multiple bottles of all sorts of booze, half of which are going to waste, as I can't think of much else on which I could run an A/B test.

          1. I grew up down south where Coke was king. I can clearly taste the difference. Pepsi tastes much sweeter to me. On the other hand, Coke has this almost cinnamon flavour. Stopped drinking the full sugar version years ago. When I had soda, I would get diet Coke. But that was rarely. Once Coke Zero came out, I was taken by how much it tasted like the original Coke. Almost enough to make me want to have one regularly.