What's The Difference Between Coke and Pepsi?

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are both colas, but they have different recipes and ingredients. Nevertheless, many consumers can't tell the two sodas apart.

Let's start with the basic differences: Pepsi contains citric acid and has slightly more caffeine than Coca-Cola. A 12-ounce can of Pepsi has 150 calories, while a 12-ounce can of Coke has 140. A can of Pepsi contains 41 grams of sugar, while Coca-Cola has 39 grams.

With that said, the drinks share more similarities than differences. Both contain caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid, and "natural flavor." So-which tastes better? That's a subjective question, of course, but both soda manufacturers have attempted to claim victory in their (occasionally vicious) advertising efforts.

Coca-Cola consistently outsells Pepsi worldwide, but PepsiCo maintains that its product has a superior formula. Since 1975, Pepsi has concentrated many of its marketing efforts on "The Pepsi Challenge," a blind taste test performed at malls, sporting events, and in other public places; passersby wear blindfolds and try samples of Pepsi and Coke, then pick a winner.

In those tests, Pepsi tends to win. However, journalist Malcolm Gladwell attributes Pepsi's dominance in blind taste tests to its punchier taste.

"Pepsi is sweeter than Coke, so right away it had a big advantage in a sip test," Gladwell wrote in his bestselling book Blink. "Pepsi is also characterized by a citrusy flavor burst, unlike the more raisiny-vanilla taste of Coke. But that burst tends to dissipate over the course of an entire can, and that is another reason Coke suffered by comparison. Pepsi, in short, is a drink built to shine in a sip test."

Gladwell notes that sweeter beverages make a better first impression, but many people might prefer to drink a full bottle of a less-sweet soda. In other words, a simple sip test might not be the best way to compare the beverages.

Nevertheless, these days, most people have strong preferences for one of the two major cola brands-and the companies' marketing tactics are largely to blame. Since the 1980s, PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company have taken very different approaches. Coca-Cola has positioned its brand as wholesome and family friendly, while Pepsi advertises their company as hip and irreverent.

Occasionally, the brands have referenced one another; when Pepsi advertised during Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta-where Coca-Cola has its head office-they used slogans like, "Pepsi in Atlanta. How refreshing," and "Hey Atlanta, thanks for hosting. We'll bring the drinks."

The Coca-Cola Company often avoids addressing Pepsi directly, but in 1985, the company announced a reformulation (commonly referred to as "New Coke"), which was widely seen as a response to Pepsi's superior performance in blind taste tests. The slightly sweeter drink was disastrous for the brand, and Coca-Cola's original formula reappeared on shelves within a few months.

Even so, the Coca-Cola Company might be getting the last laugh: According to trade publication Beverage Digest, Coke's market share has risen from 17.3 percent to 17.8 percent over the past decade, while Pepsi's has dropped from 10.3 percent to 8.4 percent.