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Please Explain: Dr Pepper and his twin, Mr Pibb
2007-06-04 08:29
by Scott Long

Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too? Nope. One of the bigger mysteries to me is why so many cans of Dr Pepper are sold. I can understand drinking it occasionally, but how it's the 6th biggest selling soft drink in the US is beyond me.


The first question I have about Dr Pepper is what is its flavor? The company claims there is a blend of 23 flavors to the Doctor. I always felt it tasted similar to the generic soda flavor of black cherry, with a little bit of a root beer tone thrown-in. Why people just don't buy the superior A&W or Barqs root beer, instead of going for an Dr Pepper puzzles me.

Another problem I have with the drink is that it doesn't blend well with food. I can remember when I was waiting tables someone ordered a Dr Pepper with their chimichanga. I had to ask them, are you sure about that? I mean even David Naughton would order a Coke or a Budweiser, when chowing on a burrito.

By the way, all my thoughts on Dr Pepper are the same for Mr Pibb. Since I was young, it always troubled me that this peculiar flavor would have such formal titles. I mean using Doctor and Mister is a bit much, isn't it?

I will give Dr Pepper a few more props than Mr Pibb, as at least it was the originator. It's kind of like comparing Britney Spears' and Jessica Simpson's music. Neither one was particularly good, but I give the edge to Brit for doing the teen jail-bait thing first. Same concept for Dr Pepper over Mr Pibb. I think my friend Mitch Hedburg said it best.

Mr. PiBB is a replica of Dr. Pepper, but it's a bullshit replica. Dude didn't even get his degree.

Just ahead of Dr Pepper in the sales rankings is Mountain Dew. The difference in sales between the 2 is less than a percentage point, which surprises me because I understand why people do the dew. Mountain Dew is loaded with caffeine, which is a big reason why I think many Americans consume soft drinks. Dr Pepper doesn't have anything in it which will give you a little boost. When Naughton would guzzle a Pepper and then dance through the streets, he must have done a couple lines of blow because it wasn't from anything the Dr had provided.

The one thing I will give props to Dr Pepper about is the diet version of it tastes the closest to the original of any beverage on the market. This is why Diet Dr Pepper is ranked 10th on the list of America's best selling soft drinks. The taste is so close, I really don't know why anyone even drinks the original. Just another mystery to me about it.

He's a Pepper, She's a Pepper. Why so many Peppers? Please Explain Dr Pepper.

2007-06-04 09:39:25
1.   kngoworld
Dr. Pepper goes amazingly well with chocolate caramel candy. Try it some time. I recommend washing down "ROLO caramels in milk chocolate" with an ice cold Dr. Pepper.

Although, I enjoy the Dr. Pepper taste, so I might be biased.

2007-06-04 09:48:54
2.   Eric Stephen
I love Dr. Pepper, but I can't explain why. One of the main ingredients is prunes, which I don't like, so I'm not sure why I like the taste so much. It's like Coke or Pepsi, just a it sweeter so maybe that's why I like it.

I will say warm Dr. Pepper is just godawful, even worse that other sodas.

I love the Mitch Hedberg reference. He was a funny dude.

2007-06-04 09:53:55
3.   Josh Wilker
2: "One of the main ingredients is prunes."

Good god. Seriously? Man, that cures me of my once every half-decade Dr. Pepper habit. That habit had its roots in my childhood, when I was drawn to its cool, aloof, outsider status. I also liked the more aggresive assault (compared to coke-pepsi) it provided on my young tastebuds. The last few times I've bought one I've gotten tired of it before I'm halfway through the bottle.

2007-06-04 10:07:24
4.   Eric L
From wikipedia:

Contrary to a popular urban legend, Dr Pepper does not, and never has, contained prune juice.

2007-06-04 10:16:44
5.   ToyCannon
I love Dr. Pepper. It is the main soft drink to use when combining drinks at a soft drink fountain.

Hate Mountain Dew.

2007-06-04 10:23:38
6.   Eric Stephen
4 I happily stand corrected. Makes Dr. P easier to love!
2007-06-04 10:31:23
7.   rstevens99
Scott, I have agreed with most of your please explains, but you are way off base with this one! I guess it comes down to this, you either are a pepper or you are not. I have been a contrarian my whole life, so the thought of drinking coke or pepsi along with the rest of the masses makes me gag. When I was in Siberia for a few months in 1999, I would make my girlfriend take me on a 1 and a half hour bus ride just to find some. You could say I am an addict. Also, it may not go well with most food, but if a Mexican joint doesn't have it, I won't eat there. It is the only drink to accompany nachos (beer excepted, of course).
2007-06-04 10:33:56
8.   Penarol1916
Dr. Pepper has always been my favorite soda. I'm not sure how it can explained why someone would like one soda better than any other. It just tastes better than any others. I will say this, I had a generic version of Dr. Pepper once, it was called Dr. Wells, and it actually tasted like it had some kind of peppery flavor to it.
As for Dr. Pepper's popularity, it is a very big drink in Texas, where it was invented.
2007-06-04 10:36:25
9.   Scott Long
Josh, I understand the desire to want to embrace the outsider, even if it's a soft drink. Growing up, I drank RC. To me it tasted best, plus O.J. Simpson was it[ spkesman.

On to mixing it with rolos, I will have to try it. Put it on my list of things I need to do before I die. (Take a ht of acid, watch 2 women get it on in preson)

2007-06-04 10:49:00
10.   Schteeve
One other great Hedberg line re: Dr. Pepper.

"They say it tastes just like regular Dr. Pepper, well then, you MESSED UP!"

2007-06-04 11:22:47
11.   Scott Long
On to a few more things.

I never said the drink is bad, just can't believe it is the 6th highest selling soft drink.

The idea of dr pepper and nachos sounds really bad to me.

I did know that in the place it started, Texas, it is most popular. Interesting how in some parts of texas, people will order a "coke" and what they mean is soft drink.

I've never visited siberia, but I did spend a few weeks in grand forks, north dakota during the winter and at no time did I feel the need to pull out my showshoes and take a trek for some dr pepper.

2007-06-04 11:23:48
12.   David Arnott
I used to drink Dr. Pepper regularly (and I went through a period of massive Mountain Dew consumption) before dropping soda altogether, and then in the past couple years I settled into my current Diet Coke habit. I'm not against Dr. Pepper. I kinda like the bite and tingle, and I'd definitely choose it over Pepsi, since I don't like dealing with Pepsi's sweetness in amounts past 12oz.

Dr. Pepper is a great mixer. I've enjoyed the coconut rum concoction my buddy has made for me.

2007-06-04 11:33:51
13.   Penarol1916
11. Look at the drinks below it on the list. Sprite, Fanta, Diet Mountain Dew, and Diet Dr. Pepper. The only one I might be surprised by its placement behind Dr. Pepper is Sprite. Are there any other sodas you think it should be behind?
2007-06-04 11:46:08
14.   Scott Long
Definitely sprite and I wonder why A&W isn't ahead of it. I wonder why more people who like dr pepper just don't drink the diet veesion. These are the eternal questions that keep me restless.
2007-06-04 11:50:38
15.   AbbyNormal821
I cannot explain either soft drinks, for I always reach for the Dr. Browns (he too is a Dr.! ;-P) Black Cherry soda.

Now there's some good stuff - washes a nice pastrami on rye w/mustard & cole slaw down real nice like...

2007-06-04 12:15:57
16.   Penarol1916
14. A&W just doesn't have the same distribution reach as Dr. Pepper, plus there are a lot more brands of root beer to dilute A&W's consumption numbers, while Dr. Pepper has just Mr. Pibb to contend with in its category. Like I said, I was surprised by the Sprite numbers in general, I would think that it would beat Mountain Dew for #5 (but that's only because I know noone outside of junior high that actually drinks the Dew).
2007-06-04 12:43:21
17.   rbj
I enjoy Dr. Pepper, like the taste, though these days I mainly drink Coke And by Coke I mean Coca-Cola, and not one of them diet ones neither.

Usually an establishment is either Coke or Pepsi, and as I can't stand Pepsi, I'll order a Dr. Pepper those times (since Pepsi bought Dr. Pepper.)

2007-06-04 12:45:11
18.   Blackfish
I was going to make the same point as 16.

With soft drinks there are two things to consider: the popularity of the type of drink (cola, lemon-lime, root beer, etc.) and how large their market share of that flavor is.

Sprite has one major competitor in 7-Up, and a bunch of other similar citrus flavors which can also eat into their share.

In New York at least, there are three major brands of root beer (A&W, Mug, Barq's) and other smaller brands. I would wager that if you combine the major root beer brands they'd rival or exceed Pepper/Pibb.

Dr Pepper has a huge portion of its market share, with only Pibb to compete, and Pibb's only successful to any degree in a couple parts of the country (as far as I can tell). Here in NY, I haven't seen it for sale in quite a long time. If you want a Pepper-like drink, you gotta buy the real thing or opt for a store-brand knock-off.

2007-06-04 12:55:09
19.   spudrph
Mitch Hedberg was a genius-gone too soon. I was lucky enough to see him when he toured with Stephen Lynch. I wasn't a big fan before, but I was afterwards, and we are lesser for his passing.

As for the soda issue, I am very occasionally a Pepper. The reason I would pick Pepper over root beer, given a choice, is that Pepper has caffeine-if I'm about to go to work, or to drive somewhere, caffeine makes the choice for me. If I'm (ha!) well rested, sure, root beer tastes better.

But Coke Zero beats them all, hands down. Best diet soda ever.

2007-06-04 13:00:30
20.   King of the Hobos
Mr Pibb is actually no longer "Mr Pibb" but rather Pibb Xtra, or such is my (and Wikipedia's) understanding of the matter.

As for Dr Pepper, I liked it when I was little, to the point that it was easily my favorite drink, but into my teens I started disliking it and thus never drank it. To be honest, I don't think I even remember what it tastes like, as it has been years since I drank it (although it's been a few years since I last had any soft drink, and my memory of what any of them taste like is pretty fuzzy).

2007-06-04 13:06:34
21.   rstevens99
I believe Dr Pepper is owned by Cadbury-Schweppes. When I lived on the East coast, and travelled up and down it a lot, I could have told you which state a Dr Pepper was bottled in, in a blind taste test. My taste buds could not stand diet DP, it wasn't sweet enough. I can take a 50-50 mix of diet and regular, however.
2007-06-04 13:36:28
22.   joejoejoe
I used to make a point to visit the soda aisle of every supermarket to see what kind of bastardized analog beverages they had cooked up. I found this web feature called Fake Dr. Pepper Land and you can see some knockoffs like Dr. Fizz and Mr. Sipp. I can't explain pop.

I went to Coca-Cola World or whatever it's called in Atlanta and they have every flavor of soda that Coca-Cola sells world wide in this little room and you can drink whatever you want for a few minutes on the tour out of tiny paper cups. Half of the flavors are so weird you wretch. I can't explain it beyond it's sugar + carbonated water + flavor.

Not that anyone asked me but I think the best soda is Canfield's 50/50. I think it's half grapefruit, half lemon (or lime, I forget). It's great to drink straight and great for mixing drinks.

2007-06-04 13:36:35
23.   rbj
Maybe a cross branding thing (or else PepsiCo bought C-S?) because the Pepsi fountains have Dr. Pepper.
2007-06-04 13:40:43
24.   chris in illinois
I wonder why more people who like dr pepper just don't drink the diet veesion. These are the eternal questions that keep me restless.


Some of us out here don't trust artificial sweeteners. It wouldn't surprise me if in 20 years we are talking about nutrasweet and equal like we do transfats now.

2007-06-04 13:56:57
25.   Scott Long
I believe in the concept of most everything in moderation is fine. People are living longer and longer, so I don't concern myself too much with artificial sweeteners being a major problem. I will say that I think high fructose corn syrup is the biggest waste of calories you can put into your body.

I've had friends who were big Mountain Dew drinkers (Super Big Gulp slurpers of the product) and they had one thing in common. They looked like Rod Beck.

I agree wholeheartedly that Coke Zero is the greatest Diet soda of all-time. If you have never liked diet drinks, give it a try. Actually, Pepsi One was great when it came out, but they did the "new and improved" deal on it and now I don't like it. I'm really surprised that Coke Zero isn't rated in the Top 6 by now, as it tastes great and Coke has such a powerful marketing team.

Good points on the root beer having so many different choices that it loses market share. My bigger point is that if you want that type of taste, why people go for Dr Pepper over root beer is a bit of a mystery.

Is there a better soft drink than A@W root beer served on tap in a frosty mug? Only a lemon shakeup at a county fair can top it for me, when it comes to drinks.

2007-06-04 14:26:38
26.   Penarol1916
25. To be perfectly honest, I can't tell you the difference between IBC, Mug's or A&W on tap in a frosty mug, but I do not like Barq's. In terms of Dr. Pepper vs. Root Beer, I prefer Dr. Pepper, I don't think I've had a root beer outside of root beer floats in forever.
I also agree that high fructose corn syrup is probably worse for you than anything they can dream up about artificial sweeteners, but then again, I prefer sodas that are made with sugar, like you used to be able to get in most of the rest of the world.
2007-06-04 14:58:21
27.   dodgerstang
To my taste buds, all artificial sweeteners taste awful so I don't drink diet sodas. I have enjoyed Dr. Pepper over the years and have heard that it has more caffeine than most other sodas.

Soemone mentioned Dr. Brown's and I just had to bring up my favorite, the Cel-Rey "tonic" (as my friend at Marv's Deli calls it). Much better than the Black Cherry (my old childhood favorite) for washing down pastrami and mustard.

Also, does anyone remember a Dr. Slice or Dr. Squirt. I have some thread of memory that involves one of the two being some sort of combination with Pepper or maybe a competitor, who know. maybe it was a dream.

As far as root beer goes, I am a big fan of the Henry Weinhardt's version. Hints of vanilla and saspirilla, mmmmmm.

2007-06-04 14:59:45
28.   El Lay Dave
Mountain Dew is loaded with caffeine, which is a big reason why I think many Americans consume soft drinks. Dr Pepper doesn't have anything in it which will give you a little boost.

Dr. Pepper has caffeine, as 19 also pointed out. A little more than Pepsi, a little less than Coke, significantly less than the Dew.

26 Note that Barq's adds caffeine, most root beers do not.

Many years ago, as a teenager, I had that bad with food Dr. Pepper experience; Jack In The Box SuperTacos just do not match with it. Of course, there are many other reasons not to be eating that combination of "food"!

7 I have been a contrarian my whole life, You must have really hated that "I'm a pepper, she's a pepper, wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?" ad campaign. The near-oxymoronic nature of being "part of an original crowd" was pretty amusing, however.

2007-06-04 16:50:40
29.   rstevens99
28 I agree that campaign sucked, personally, I would like DP to by my own little secret, but that would be bad for business.
2007-06-04 17:40:56
30.   Derek J
When I was a kid, my parents refused to buy soft drinks. So I would go out to the store, and spend some of my meager few dollars on a bottle of coke, and when I got home, my brothers (one older, one younger) would be waiting like vultures to consume whatever I brought back, within minutes of my walking through the door. They wouldn't buy anything themselves--they just knew that if they waited, I'd break down and spend my own money, and they could help themselves to my soda.

I eventually found that Dr. Pepper was the only carbonated beverage I could stomach that they wouldn't touch. Sure, it has a weird made-up taste. But then again, isn't cola a weird, made-up taste? Does anyone out there know what kola nuts are actually supposed to taste like?

As for root beer, it's strangely the only beverage, aside from maybe milk, that doesn't have huge brand loyalty going for it. I know people who are total brand name snobs who won't bat an eye at buying the supermarket generic root beer for a cook-out--that likely puts a huge damper on root beer passing Dr. Pepper (and Mountain Dew) on the list.

2007-06-04 18:01:03
31.   Clive Clements
Love the Mitch Hedburg references. That was the first thing I thought when I saw the title.

30 I don't have single root beer brand loyalty b/c I'm interested in trying many brands (bottled or restaurant made only). But I will tell you that I did fly Sioux City Sarsaparilla in my luggage back to PA b/c the closest distributor's quite a long ways away. For root beer, it's pretty much Sioux City or Frostie for me. No generics. And I'll only take A&W at A&W restaurants, never canned. I'm weird.

2007-06-04 20:15:44
32.   StolenMonkey86
What's really interesting is that McDonalds, among other places, often carry Dr. Pepper even if they predominantly sell Coke products. It strikes me that Mr. Pibb falls short (the degree matters!), and it strikes me that most people would rather have Dr. Pepper in choosing between Pibb and DP. Coke and Pepsi fans choose one or the other, but each will enjoy a Dr. Pepper from time to time, or perhaps one over the other.

Barq's root beer is awful. It's basically Coke with root beer flavoring; after having it semi-regularly my freshman year of college, I realized how bad it was. A&W's the best canned root beer, but if picking a favorite, I go with IBC.

2007-06-04 22:29:51
33.   thelarmis
good topic here, scott! i'm not a huge soda fan, but as a kid, i enjoyed RC cola over coke/pepsi/etc., also.

sprite is okay. i've never drunk coffee or tea and i'm not a caffeine guy. all that said, i am a barq's root beer fanatic. it was pointed out earlier that barq's is about the only root beer that has caffeine in it. hence it's slogan of "the one with the bite."

i'm in atlanta, which is the 'land of coke.' i love barq's and dasani water, both coca-cola products. obviously i disagree massively with those who say barq's is awful and that's there's no difference between many different brands. i can easily detect differences. A&W, is my most hated. it tastes "burnt" to me. sorry - i don't have a better explanation on it. i'm not a huge fan of the fancy root beer types. i like Mug okay, but barq's rules for me.

dr. pepper & mr. pibb (which i never even heard of til i moved south), taste like medicine to me - triaminic, most specifically.

2007-06-04 23:55:48
34.   Scott Long
For some reason, my favorite comment sections are the Please Explain topics that deal with food. It seems like people are willing to share the most about themselves, when discussing food or drink, which helps me learn more about you.

Thank you to everyone who checks in here.

2007-06-05 08:20:39
35.   bartap74
Dr. Pepper is fabulous with either Girls Scout Thin Mints or any Keebler Fudge cookie. As for Root Beer, it's Barq's all the way.
2007-06-05 08:50:33
36.   D4P
A worthy candidate for a future "Please Explain" segment:

The "My Brilliant Career" bit is particularly ridiculous.

2007-06-05 10:54:58
37.   jgpyke
Being in 6th place isn't exactly heels-clicking stuff. It's like the Dennis Kucinich of sodas. So I guess I don't get your bewilderment. Less than one out of 17 sodas sold is a Dr. Pepper.

Re: RC cola, they still use sugar, as opposed to HFCS.

2007-06-05 12:00:25
38.   Bluebleeder87
i don't think i've ever had a Dr. Pepper, EVER!.
2007-06-05 12:12:52
39.   Bluebleeder87
i have tasted A&W & it was o.k.
2007-06-05 12:40:10
40.   Scott Long
Consider how much 1 out of 17 times a soft drink is consumed really is. This is my mystery. 1 out of 40, I probably don't make a big deal out of it. Consider how many people drink 6 cokes or diet cokes a day. To be 1 out of 17 means some people are consuming a ton of the doctor.

While I like canned root beer better than dr pepper, a&w poured on tap from a drive-in is manna. Sweet, sweet nectar. Kind of like a good beer served in a frosty mug.

2007-06-06 10:45:23
41.   stevegoz
Look, people -- Dr. Bold is the only way to go.
2007-06-06 10:50:43
42.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
This, and certain other segments of Please Explain, can be answered thusly:

- There's no accounting for taste

2007-06-06 11:08:57
43.   jmoney
Dr. Pepper goes really well with Jim Beam. For probably a year of college, my drink of choice was a highball glass half full of ice, pour in the Beam until the ice floats, and add the Dr. Pepper to the top.

Other than that, I never drink the stuff. Soda is gross.

2007-06-06 12:20:49
44.   Mike J
34. Food is the easiest because everybody has an opinion. Surprisingly, everybody eats!

With some topics, like Danica Patrick, I don't care enough to have an opinion, let alone care enough to share it.

Incidentally, I think Dr. Pepper is pretty accurately rated. The only one beneath it that you'd think might be higher is Sprite, and that's the Patrick Ewing to Michael Jordan's 7up.

2007-06-06 14:45:50
45.   Scott Long
I should have been more specific in what makes Dr Pepper's popularity so surprising to me.
That 6% of every soft drink consumed is a Dr Pepper is the amazing part. It seems to me like a drink that you might have every once in awhile. It basically has the same percentage as Diet Pepsi, which is consumed in massive amounts by some.
2007-06-06 16:04:31
46.   rstevens99
Scott, if by every once in a while you mean every couple of hours, then I am guilty as charged. I agree with you about A & W from the tap, but here in So Cal we don't have that option, unfortunately.

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