Dr Pepper passes Pepsi as second biggest soda brand behind Coke

ByDanielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN CNNWire logo
Sunday, June 9, 2024
ABC7 Chicago 24/7 Stream
Live streaming newscasts, breaking news, weather & original, local programming.

Coke is still the top soda in America. But the runner up spot, long held by Pepsi, now belongs to Dr Pepper.

After years of slowly gaining market share, Dr Pepper inched ahead of Pepsi as the number two soda brand in the country in 2023, according to market share data from Beverage Digest, a trade publication.

Coke is the leader by a comfortable margin. Last year, it captured 19.2% of the soda market in the United States by volume, Beverage Digest's data shows. Dr Pepper and Pepsi both had 8.3%, with Dr Pepper technically ahead. After that came other brands owned by Coca-Cola: Sprite came in at 8.1% and Diet Coke at 7.8%.

While "Dr Pepper has been gaining, [Pepsi] has been declining, and they're meeting in the middle," said Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest, in an interview with CNN.

Over the years, the peppery soda - with its claimed blend of 23 flavors - has been growing in popularity, leaning into its identity as a spicy alternative to cola and taking advantage of broader trends.

Founded in 1885 in Waco, Texas, Dr Pepper preceded both Coca-Cola and Pepsi. And while the two cola giants battled it out in the 20th century, Dr Pepper established a small but devoted following in the American South.

For years a regional favorite, Dr Pepper in the 1970s marketed itself to a national audience as a unique flavor. Over the years, it has gained traction with a national audience.

Today, Dr Pepper is experimenting with new flavors. The brand introduced Dr Pepper Strawberries & Cream last year. The addition was "a standout success," Timothy Cofer, CEO of Dr Pepper parent company Keurig Dr Pepper, said during an analyst call in April. The brand has also rolled out trendy limited-time flavors, like Dr Pepper Creamy Coconut, inspired by TikTok's dirty soda trend (mixing soda with milk or cream and other flavors).

But the brand doesn't have to do too much to be on trend. "Swicy," or sweet and spicy, items are taking over the food and beverage aisle. Even Coca-Cola wants in: The company in February introduced Coca-Cola Spiced, a rare permanent addition to the lineup of Coke flavors.

Pepsi, on the other hand, may have been too focused on its other brands. Unlike Coca-Cola and Keurig Dr Pepper, Pepsico has a massive food business - its sprawling portfolio includes Quaker, Frito-Lay and more. And when it comes to beverages, Stanford noted, it seems to be focused on its zero sugar lines rather than classic Pepsi.

"They're leading with that now," Stanford said.

The-CNN-Wire & 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.