Diet Dr Pepper vs. Dr Pepper Zero Sugar: Differences

Diet Dr Pepper vs. Dr Pepper Zero Sugar
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Most manufacturers nowadays typically formulate their diet and zero-sugar drinks to taste as close to the original product as possible. But how does that work if you’re a fan of a specific, such as Dr Pepper? How do you decide between Diet Dr Pepper and Dr Pepper Zero Sugar?

Sweeteners are the main difference between Diet Dr Pepper and Dr Pepper Zero Sugar. Diet Dr Pepper uses aspartame for its sweetness, while Zero Sugar uses both aspartame and acesulfame potassium to deliver its flavor.

So how does an additional sweetener affect Dr Pepper Zero Sugar’s taste compared to Diet? Let’s find out.

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Uses Two Sweeteners

As I mentioned earlier, Dr Pepper Zero Sugar contains aspartame and acesulfame potassium – two different kinds of sweeteners. This is how Keurig Dr Pepper, the company behind the iconic brand, manages to deliver a taste that is as close to the original as possible without the excess sugar.

Acesulfame potassium, also known as Ace-K or Acesulfame-K, is an FDA-approved artificial sweetener. It’s formulated to be 200 times sweeter than sugar, so only a tiny amount is needed to sweeten anything. [1] If you’re wondering how most zero-sugar drinks, including Dr Pepper Zero Sugar, have little to no calories, Ace-K is the reason.

Dr Pepper Zero Has Two Additional Ingredients

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar and Diet Dr Pepper share a similar ingredient list, but Zero has two more ingredients absent in Diet: Acesulfame potassium and sodium phosphate.

We’ve already discussed what Ace-K is, so let’s talk about sodium phosphate.

Just like Ace-K, sodium phosphate is approved by the FDA for human consumption. It has multiple uses [2]: for thickening the texture of foods; keeping moisture in cured meat; helping the dough rise for cake and bread mixes; acting as an emulsifier to keep oil and water together; and balancing pH levels for food to improve shelf life and taste.

In the case of Dr Pepper Zero, sodium phosphate is likely used for flavor improvement. Along with Ace-K, Keurig Dr Pepper uses sodium phosphate to emulate the original formula’s taste without adding more sugar.

Dr Pepper Zero Has a Cream Soda Version

Fans of Dr Pepper Cream Soda rejoice: you can now enjoy this delicious drink in Zero Sugar version. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy it without all the extra sugar and calories? Even better, there are two other flavors: regular Dr Pepper Zero Sugar and Dr Pepper Cherry Zero Sugar.

However, bad news for those who want a diet version: there is no Diet Dr Pepper and Cream Soda. If you want one, you’ll have to stick to a full-sugar or zero-sugar version.

Diet Dr Pepper Has a Caffeine-Free Version

On the other hand, if you want to enjoy Dr Pepper but with no caffeine and sugar, Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper has got you covered. Don’t bother looking for a zero-sugar version because there isn’t one. Maybe Keurig Dr Pepper will introduce a caffeine-free and zero-sugar version one day, but only time will tell.

In case you’re curious about the other Diet Dr Pepper flavors aside from caffeine-free, here they are: regular Diet Dr Pepper and Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper. Don’t always assume that there’s a diet version of any of the full-sugar varieties.

Diet Dr Pepper Has Been Around Since 1962

The most significant difference between Diet and Zero Sugar Dr Pepper is their age.

Diet Dr Pepper has been around since 1962 – a whopping 59 years before the zero-sugar version was introduced. It was first released in cans before coming into bottles a year later.

Diet Dr Pepper was initially called “Dietary Dr Pepper” when it first came out, but it was shortly renamed to “Sugar-Free Dr Pepper” four years later. Apparently, the word “dietary” didn’t prove popular to customers, giving the wrong impression that the drink was strictly for people with diabetes. It wasn’t until 1987 that the name “Diet Dr Pepper” entered the mainstream.

It wasn’t until 2021 that Keurig Dr Pepper introduced the zero-sugar version. It’s a well-known fact that aspartame affects the taste of products containing the sweetener, and the company wanted a low-calorie sweetener that didn’t affect the taste as much. 

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar was so popular with customers that there was a shortage of the drink for a while. This shows that people love enjoying their favorite drinks but without the extra guilt of sugar and calories.

Despite the age difference between the two drinks, people continue to enjoy each variety worldwide.

For more fun facts about Dr Pepper, watch the video below!

Final Thoughts: Which Is Better?

Picking between Diet Dr Pepper and Dr Pepper Zero Sugar can be challenging because of two things: they both help you avoid excess sugar in your drinks, and they have unique flavors. For example, if I wanted a caffeine-free Dr Pepper, I’d have to stick with the diet version because there’s no zero-sugar variety.

But if I were to choose between the low-calorie varieties of regular and non-flavored Dr Pepper, my vote goes to Dr Pepper Zero Sugar. Adding Ace-K and sodium phosphate helps ensure it tastes very similar to the original, full-sugar version. And a drink like that means I don’t have to settle for a strange-tasting variety just to enjoy it guilt-free.

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