Since first visiting the United States, one thing I have absolutely loved is the soft drink Dr Pepper. It was introduced to my home country of Australia in 1997, but without much success. In fact, I remember drinking it back then and hating it. But my tastes must have matured, because now it is one of my favourite drinks. Dr Pepper is made by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group with an “authentic blend of 23 flavors” which sounds pretty impressive. The former CEO of the Dr Pepper/7-Up Company described the flavour like this: “It’s not an apple, it’s not an orange, it’s not a strawberry, it’s not a root bear, it’s not even a cola. It’s a different kind of drink with a unique taste all its own.”
But this is not a story about my love of Dr Pepper. No, this is in fact a story about my betrayal of Dr Pepper. Or maybe just about how extremely cheap I am. You see, every week during our regular shopping trip, when it was time to stock up on my Dr Pepper, I kept on seeing Walmart’s own imitation of the famous Dr Pepper drink, similarly called Dr Thunder. The price difference is slight, but as I mentioned before, I’m extremely cheap. At our local store, before tax, Dr Pepper comes in at $5.98 for 24 cans (about 25c a can) and Dr Thunder is a whole dollar cheap at $4.98 for 24 cans (about 21c a can). That’s a huge saving of 4c a can. Considering I drink a can with dinner each night, this equates to a savings of just under $15 a year, which is one movie at the cinema with my girlfriend. In my opinion, this price difference isn’t enough to settle with the imitation brand, but the fact is that since trying Dr Thunder, I find the taste pretty much the same, maybe even better.
I decided to look further to see what I was really drinking between the two. Dr Pepper lists its ingredients as Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative) and Caffeine. Dr Thunder list its ingredients as Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Benzoate (Preservative), Caffeine, Lactic Acid and Monopotassium Phosphat. Dr Thunder contains these two last ingredients in addition to those found in Dr Pepper. The first is a colourless syrupy organic acid formed in sour milk and the second is a soluble salt used as a common food additive. I’m not sure exactly what these two extra ingredients do, but it’s possibly responsible for their slightly different tastes. (Maybe a knowledgeable reader can enlighten me?)
As far as health goes, while sodas are never a healthy option, the two don’t really differ in their health ratings. They have about the same amount of calories, carbohydrates and sugars. Both drinks though, do have slightly higher calories, sodium, carbs and sugar than Coca-Cola, so the Dr’s are slightly more unhealthy than drinking a regular Coke.
One thing I actually like more in Dr Thunder is their 24-can box style. While this doesn’t change the taste of the drink itself, the slimmer box of Dr Thunder is much easier to carry, hold, unload and store than the bulky Dr Pepper box, which seems like it will fall apart (and probably will after a while) than the Dr Thunder box.
Of course, if it was available at my local Walmart I would stick to Dublin Dr Pepper, which uses the original Dr Pepper recipe of cane sugar as the sweetener instead of the modern high-fructose corn syrup used in many sodas, including the two Dr’s. The Dr Pepper imitations don’t end at Dr Thunder however, with more than 50 Dr Pepper imitations around. For now, I’m sticking with my slightly cheaper and possibly better tasting Dr Thunder.
Have you tried Dr Pepper and Dr Thunder? Which one do you like better? Tell me about it in the comments below!