Friday, May 3, 2013

Blind Taste Test: Mountain Dew vs imitators

Blind Taste Test: Mountain Dew vs imitators


Mountain Dew is my favorite soft drink (around here, it's called pop, down south, soda. More on that here.)

Everyone knows that Mountain Dew is the best, right? Or do those commercials just make us think that. I mean, the only reason we buy off brand is because we can't afford the real thing, right?

Well, a few of us Mountain Dew lovers decided to find out. We did a blind taste-test.

Products Tested:



What was tested:
  • Mountain Dew in a plastic bottle
  • Mountain Dew in a can
  • Mountain Dew Throwback in a can
  • Mountain Dew Throwback in a glass bottle
  • Diet Mountain Dew
  • Rocky Mist (Meijer)
  • Sun Drop
  • Citrus Drop (Kroger)
  • Moon Mist (Faygo)
  • Mountain Lightning (Wal*Mart)
  • Mello Yellow (Coca-Cola)
  • Mountain Holler (Save A Lot)
Each of these is marketed as a competitor (or at least store-brand knock-off...) to Mountian Dew. But are they really any good?

The Method

My wife mixed up the order of the product, then poured the same amount of each of these into identical glasses, labeled A through L. None of the tasters was in the room when this happened.

After the samples were poured, we came back in to sample each product. Judging solely by taste, we had to rank the samples from Best, to Worst, in order. Bonus points if we could correctly identify a sample.

Our tasters were four males who's favorite drink was Mountain Dew. My Mom was also curious, so she tried them as well.





The Prediction:

Each of us pretty much expected the different Mountain Dew varieties to be clustered together at the top, with the wanna-bees trailing after... and diet Mountain Dew as dead last (None of us like diet soda.. at all. It was tossed in as a control worst.)

Is that what happened? Keep reading...

The Results:

This is why I love science. It's fun, sometimes surprising, and, in this case, tasty. The first thing we all noticed was the variation in color (very close, all yellow. All oddly packaged in green containers....). There are also variations in carbonation, cloudyness, and scent.

Oddly, there are flavor variations as well, from subtle, to drastic. At one point, I wasn't sure we'd have a clear winner. A lot of the samples did taste nearly identical, with a few standing out as pretty good, and a few we didn't like. These results did vary by person, though.



Fortunately, a clear winner did emerge. More on that later...


Here's the results for each taster. The key is down below. Remember, we didn't get to see what product each sample was until after we'd turned in a sheet with our picks.



Aaron Joe Benny Phil Ranee
C C C E C
K H F C I
E D J G
D J E
J E D
L K I H
H I B
G G A
I A G F
B F K F D
F B L K B
A L H H L
Note: Un-ranked samples for Phil and Ranee were declared too close to call.

So, what were our mystery samples?

A. Rocky Mist (Meijer)
B. Sun Drop
C. Mountain Dew Throwback - can
D. Citrus Drop (Kroger)
E. Mountain Dew - plastic bottle
F. Moon Mist (Faygo)
G. Mountain Lightning (Wal-Mart)
H. Diet Mountain Dew - plastic bottle
I. Mountain Dew - can
J. Mountain Dew Throwback - glass bottle
K. Mello Yellow -  (Coca-Cola)
L. Mountain Holler - (Save A Lot)

So, we have a clear winner, Mountain Dew Throwback in a can!

But, which one was worst? At first glance, everything but the winner is all over the board. This is probably due to us drinking cheap pop too often. Or, possibly the imitators do a really good job. Also, the sample size for this study is very small, and taste is a subjective thing too. Also, we're not trained tasting scientists, just average Mountain Dew fans.

The weirdest result is that diet Mountain Dew came out about in the middle of the pack. Remember, all our tasters hate diet pop. (It's that nasty aspartame aftertaste.) We all commented that it was very different from all the other samples, but not bad. A few moments later most of us were able to identify it as diet. And yet, it still only ranked dead last on one taster's list.

Let's assign points to each product, then add the points together, and see if that gets us some more useful data. Like in golf, a low score is better here. If a taster ranked it as their number one pick, it gets one point, if they ranked it their worst, it gets 12 points. With five tasters, the best possible score is 5, worst is 60.


Product Points
Mountain Dew Throwback - can 6
Mountain Dew - plastic bottle 19
Mountain Dew Throwback - glass bottle 24
Citrus Drop (Kroger) 28
Mountain Dew - can 30
Diet Mountain Dew - plastic bottle 33
Mountain Lightning (Wal-Mart) 34
Mello Yellow -  (Coca-Cola) 35
Rocky Mist (Meijer) 41
Moon Mist (Faygo) 42
Sun Drop 45
Mountain Holler - (Save A Lot) 47

Or, in chart form:



Well, now we're a little closer to our prediction, but you can see that the small sample size does some interesting things to the bottom and middle ranked contenders.

I also wish that I'd been able to find Mountain Dew Throwback in a plastic bottle. At the beginning of the test, we all had our favorite storage medium, but weren't sure if it actually effected the taste or not. You can see from above that just by being in a can, Mountain Dew got bumped down out of the pack from the other Dew. Of the four of us that state that Dew is our preferred beverage, canned Dew was at exactly in the middle of the pack. Only the tester that likes, but does not prefer, Dew, gave canned Dew a bump up. Just being stored in plastic bumped Dew up four rankings. That's got me wondering if Throwback in plastic might just be the best beverage ever. Only one tester ranked Throwback in a can as a number two, and he vacillated a bit.

Note however, that this may be co-incidence, as the small sample size is throwing results here, as well. One tester rated Dew in plastic as number one. No one else rated it as a one, or a two, but it did get a three, four, five, and six.

I also regret not being able to test more product in glass. It's just not available. Note that Dew imitators were only tested in plastic, two-liter bottles. It was hard enough ranking these... (and that'd add more expense.) We can see from the data that we do have that, though packaging does effect flavor, the formula used effects it more.

Another conclusion is that Pepsi shouldn't have switched from cane sugar to High Fructose Corn Syrup in the late 80's/early 90's. (For those that live in a hole in the ground, that's what's different about Throwback. It uses real cane sugar.)

I'm sure there's stuff I've done wrong in the above. Feel free to point it out to me in the comments (nicely!)

Do you like Mountain Dew? Prefer one brand/package/variety over another? Are you sure you do, or is it all in your mind? Feel free to try this experiment at home. Test your friends. Let me know what you find out!