R&D

The Philosopher Fizz? Study suggests thinking men prefer Pepsi to Coke

15-Apr-2014
Last updated on 15-Apr-2014 at 16:22 GMT - By Ben Bouckley+
Another episode in the age-old soda wars...(Photo: Kreg Steppe/Flickr)
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Japanese academics say that students in a taste test comparing the world’s two bitter cola rivals were more likely to prefer Pepsi to Coke when asked to give reasons why.

In a study that is clearly in no way conclusive, but is another piece of fizzy fun in the age old red-blue soda war, the academics led by Ayumi Yamada from the University of Tokyo department of information studies enrolled 66 undergraduates for their experiment.

All students were aged from 18-20 and 80% were male, and the academics wanted to examine if analysis of beverage taste changes the favorite drink of a taster.

Blind tastings of 80ml of Coke and Pepsi in controlled conditions showed that those who were not asked to comment on their preferred drink (one third of the total number), tended to prefer Coke (60%+), but those who were asked to give reasons (one third) tended to prefer Pepsi (circa. 80%).

Pepsi has a 'greater basis' for perceived pleasantness?

However, a third group who were asked to vocalize their dislike for the drinks showed no clear preference for either – there was a roughly 50/50 split with a small lead for Pepsi.

“Those who analyzed their reasons [for] favoring Coke and Pepsi were more likely to prefer Pepsi than those who did not analyse them,” Yamada et al write.

“The greater ease of participants in verbalizing their positive reasons for Pepsi than for Coke indicates that the former possesses characteristics that provide a more plausible basis for experienced pleasantness,” they add.

Yamada et al. add that the more each student liked one or the other cola, the easier they found it to give positive reasons for their choice.

What does this mean? Well Koenigs & Tranel (2008) found that tasters tended to prefer Coke when the labels of the drinks were visible, but Pepsi when they are not – Yamada et al. call this the ‘Pepsi paradox’ and say it is a staple of marketing research.

Consumers 'drink' labels not colas

Glossing this position, they write: “Consumers ‘drink’ labels rather than the cola, the wine or beer on which they are affixed.”

“A beverage label works as an extrinsic cue that evokes a taste expectation, one that may override or compromise the immediate, holistic experience of a beverage’s intrinsic properties,” they add.

But Yamada et al. question whether blind tasting may lead to a preference for particular brands that is not the ‘genuine’ holy grail that we might think, since consumers may focus on attributes that are ‘easy to verbalize’ that may misrepresent sensory and affective experiences.

“A particular brand may be largely preferred in blind tastings because tasters are encouraged to focus and base their preferences on the limited properties of a drink or food rather than on its superiority in taste,” they add.

Title: ‘The Effect of an Analytical Appreciation of Colas on Consumer Beverage Choice’

Authors: Yamada, A., Fukuda, H., Samejima, K., Kiyokawa, S., Ueda, K., Noba, S., Wanikawa, A.

Source: Food Quality and Preference, published online December 7 2013, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2013.11.008

Related topics: Fizzing-Up Carbonates, R&D, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Soft Drinks & Water