You are currently viewing Dr. Publix Soda (Publix)
Thank goodness for two liters...

Dr. Publix Soda (Publix)

I just have to ask: Who names private label products? I guess more specifically: Who names private label products from Publix? What is the process from start to finish? I’m sure it doesn’t just go from one person’s mouth directly onto the label without input from anyone else. In fact, there are probably several people with the ability to influence product names. With that in mind, I’m not only curious to know who the hell pitched “Dr. Publix” as a possible name to begin with, but also every person who neglected to realize how fucking stupid it was before allowing it to hit the shelf.

At any rate, regardless of the drink’s idiotic moniker, it certainly doesn’t leave any question as to what drink it’s attempting to rip off. So let’s just dig right into this one, shall we?

First impression: It smells pretty similar to the national brand’s nondescript, baffling aroma. The “original” has a smell that is certainly unique in the soda world, and this comes close to matching that. I don’t know if “peppery” is an apt way to describe it, but the notes do hit “spice” more than “sweet”. Could this insinuate that Publix’s version – despite its vomit-inducing name – might actually land in the same ballpark as the carbonated beverage it’s copying?

Unfortunately, no. No it doesn’t. The taste…well, the taste doesn’t quite match the same lofty heights of accuracy hinted upon by the scent. I gave my wife a blind taste test to see if she could identify it; she thought it was a cherry soda of some sort. And I can’t blame her: The end result somehow tastes much sweeter than the national brand. It does veer into “cherry” territory, with notes of the fruit interspersed with some ever-so-slight spiciness that is relegated to a backup role. Technically, it retains many of the same characteristics found in the name brand, but doesn’t present them in the same way.

Sometimes, that can be acceptable. In this case, it kind of ruins the entire point. The original is known for its “spicy” flavor, which is what sets it apart from the millions of other sodas that seem to permeate store shelves. Love it or hate it, you have to admit there really isn’t anything else that tastes like it on the market. Dr. Publix (cringe) doesn’t have that same distinction. Outside of its laughably atrocious name that lands squarely in the “self parody” genre of private label products, there’s nothing here that stands out in a sea of pale imitators.

Instead, all it proves is that there are certain things that just shouldn’t be emulated. That’s something I’m finding to be true for many sodas. It seems that’s the one area where private labels don’t seem to be making any headway. What store brands actually come close to matching the flavors of the drinks they are ripping off? Not many. At one point in time, the price differential was generally enough to excuse a lack of accuracy. For example, a few years back when Aldi 12-packs were around $2 and 2-liters were under $1. 

Now, with prices quickly climbing to absurd highs, the weaknesses of private label sodas are becoming more obvious. All $2.50 will get you these days are six 7.5 oz. cans from Walmart. SIX packs. 7.5 OZ. CANS. That’s smaller than the 12 oz. cans that have always been the industry standard. That means getting 12 cans would not only run you twice that price – putting it about on par with national brands a few short years ago – but would also screw you out of over 50 oz. when compared to the 12 oz. cans. And all it gets you is syrupy, carbonated junk. At these prices, being disappointed doesn’t just mean you’ve wasted a couple of bucks; it means you’ve wasted at least half the price of a monthly video streaming service. And for those of us on a budget, that can be a pretty big deal.

Thankfully, two-liter bottles have once again stepped up to provide a more affordable option. In the previous “heyday” of soda pricing, they were becoming virtually obsolete, especially for private labels. The prices were often a dollar (or less!) cheaper than buying twelve-packs of the same brand. And given the larger bottles’ known issues (the tendency to quickly go flat and less portable convenience), it made more sense to just buy a 12-pack and pitch it if it sucked. 

Not anymore. And this is a perfect case study in that thinking: Each 2-liter bottle at Publix retails for just $1.29. It’s a rare case where cost doesn’t hold something back from the notoriously overpriced retailer. This is much cheaper than the name brands, and also about a dime or so more than similar offerings from other stores. That certainly ain’t bad company to be in.

And this soda isn’t bad either, from a technical standpoint. If it were a standalone drink, it might work as a weird cherry/spice hybrid. But when you name – and visually model – your product after, you’re inviting comparison. You’re also specifically trying to appeal to fans of that product. 

In this case, they should just set themselves up for disappointment.

Overall: 5.5/10. The “spiciness” of the national brand is replaced with added sweetness that kind of defeats the whole purpose. The end result veers more into “cherry” soda territory, as my wife initially believed it was from a blind taste test. It’s not bad – the remaining notes give off those “peppery” vibes of the original – but it’s not going to win over fans looking for a close replica. The sugary aspect becomes overwhelming, making this less inviting than the carbonated liquid it is clearly trying to emulate. And that’s a shame, because the price is actually reasonable: Each 2-liter bottle retails for $1.29. That puts it pretty much on an equal plane with other store brands, a rarity for anything sold inside a Publix store.

Leave a Reply