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What’s the Difference Between Coke and Pepsi?

A can of Coca-Cola lies next to a can of Pepsi.
Mejini Neskah/Shutterstock.com

There are a lot of food and drink debates people are passionate about. Arguably one of the most common is the argument over which is better: Coke or Pepsi.

Whatever team you’re on, though, what exactly is the difference between the two? What makes the flavors so different?

Well, as it turns out, the changes in nutrition and ingredients between the two are subtle, but they make a fairly substantial flavor differential. In his 2005 book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell examined the way people reacted to the two drinks in taste tests. He explained that Coke has a raisin-vanilla flavor that’s smooth, but Pepsi has a citrusy pop that’s sugary and sharp.

Libbey Coca-Cola 16-3/4-Ounce Glass Tumblers

For some, the nostalgia of Coca-Cola merchandise is too hard to resist.

His flavor profiles are reflected in the ingredients of the two sodas. Coke has more sodium than Pepsi. The added bit of salty flavor helps make the drink smoother, a bit less sweet, and more like a club soda.

Meanwhile, Pepsi has two more grams of sugar than Coca-Cola giving it a big impact of sweetness upon first sip. Then, the major ingredient difference between the two is citric acid, which Coke doesn’t have. When added to Pepsi, it gives the soda its citrus pop.

Classic Pepsi Script Logo Royal Blue Plastic Tumblers

Pepsi fans aren't short on merch, either.

Which are you—Team Pepsi or Team Coke? While some might argue the differences are too subtle to notice, dedicated fans of both might beg to differ.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »
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